Ed Fox, CTO of MetTel, explains quantum networking and how it will transform communications.

Quantum Computer in front of black background
Image: DP/Adobe Stock

For many, quantum computing remains an abstract concept – a far-off dream of titanic supercomputers able to process and solve problems millions of times faster than your average machine. The reality is actually a lot closer than many of us would think.

In fact, early adoption of quantum computing has already begun – with Google releasing its experimental quantum computer back in 2019, and a whole host of tech giants, enterprising start-ups, and cutting-edge labs pouring billions into the research and development of quantum. It shows quantum isn’t a fad. The evolution of the quantum computer will continue to accelerate over the coming years, with a string of recent scientific and technological breakthroughs signaling its inexorable rise towards more widespread application across the mainstream business world.

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There are exciting times ahead, with quantum unlocking a wealth of new opportunities across various industries, sectors and verticals. One such example is the communications industry, which is set to enjoy the emergence and subsequent rise of one of quantum’s most impressive offshoots – quantum networks.

What is quantum networking?

Currently, due to various limitations, it’s almost impossible to transport data stored in a quantum computer. This restricts all process to the quantum computer in question, with any quantum information generated only able to be shared between one other quantum computer.

The collaborative nature of our world, with instant access to information (anytime, anyplace) the absolute norm, means that information shared between only two machines could almost be called antiquated – ironic considering the cutting-edge nature of quantum computers.

However, researchers in the Netherlands have recently engineered a significant breakthrough, enabling quantum information to move across vast distances between two (even three) quantum computers via the use of an intermediary node. This takes place by manipulating a quantum theory known as entanglement – whereby entangled particles replicate and enable quantum information to be transported across vast distances instantaneously and between more than two machines.

So, while closely connected, quantum computing and quantum networking do operate as independent industries. However, it’s safe to say that quantum computing will struggle to realize its full potential without effective introduction and use of quantum networks – but what will this actually look like in the world of communications?

How will quantum networks transform communications?

At its essence, quantum networking will fundamentally change how data is sent and received. If managed effectively, quantum networks – also known as the quantum internet – could drive a metamorphic change to the way the internet operates, carving out the true network of the future.

We’d live in a world with the potential for almost zero latency – it would only be present when processing at the send/receive end of the network. Added to this, quantum networks would almost entirely eliminate physical network infrastructure. In other words, the copper and fibre optic cables that traverse our planet (often underneath our seas and oceans) would become redundant.

Perhaps most tangibly, any quantum information transported between two quantum computers (or more) becomes completely inaccessible during its journey, meaning no-one can intercept it. Picture a world where your data is 100% (and we mean 100%) protected… unconditional security. It could spell the end of cybercrime as we know it.

Researchers also predict quantum networks and computers will help accelerate the invention of new medicines and critical vaccines, as well as support even more advanced use of artificial intelligence (AI).

In communications – building on the benefits of absolute data security and instant delivery of information – quantum devices will enable higher performance for sensors, such as high-accuracy GPS. We may also witness the birth of the quantum cloud. By connecting distributed quantum computers, users will possess instant access to a crack-proof data cloud, with higher speeds and more capacity than any cloud that’s come before.

Approach the quantum network with cautious optimism

Of course, it’s very early days for the quantum network and computer. We’re only scratching the surface when it comes to the exciting opportunities and complex challenges they present. An end to cybercrime and other such predictions are exactly that: Predictions.

But it’s safe to say that quantum computing will only continue its relentless march, as our understanding of its potential and investment in its evolution grows. Those who stay educated and aware of its unceasing development – with discoveries and breakthroughs happening monthly – will be primed and ready to take advantage of its awesome power as it becomes more accessible and affordable over the coming years.

Ed Fox

Ed Fox is CTO of MetTel, a leader in communications and digital transformation (DX) solutions for enterprise customers.