AT&T Is Full Steam Ahead with Quantum Internet Research

Quantum networked computing has a vast range of applications, including providing super secure communications.
Jessica Miley

Telecommunications giant, AT&T are working with researchers on ways to move the power of quantum computing out of the labs and into the real world.

The firm has formed a partnership called Intelligent Quantum Networks and Technologies (INQNET).

Researchers from the California Institute of Technology, Stanford University, national laboratories, startups, the military, and other institutions will work together on the project.

Quantum computing isn’t going to go mainstream anytime soon but the researchers from the partnership will work together on figuring out what is possible.


Linked computers open doors to super powerful Internet

They will look into possibly linking quantum computers to amplify their power in a similar way that linking conventional computers led to massive supercomputers.

Quantum computers might be able to do something similar which could eventually form the basis for a quantum Internet.

"How do you get it to a point where you can scale it so you can afford to buy one of these things?" said AT&T Chief Technology Officer Andre Fuetsch, at an event to launch the partnership at the company's research and development lab that's headquarters.

"We want to make sure we're there and we're relevant."

Data sharing in secret

The fundamental element of quantum computing is known as a Qubit or Quantum Bit or Qbit for short. It can send more data than a conventional computer which uses a bit. Qubits can store multiple states at the same time. 

A quantum computer network would link qubits across multiple quantum computers.

"You could allow qubits to interact with each other as if they were next to each other," said Soren Telfer, director of the AT&T Foundry in Palo Alto.

One major advantage of a quantum computing network is secure communications. With quantum networks, it is impossible for an outside party to eavesdrop so super secure communications can take place with confidence.

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Another big advantage of a quantum networked computer is "secure multiparty computation”.

This allows parties to share proprietary data for combined calculations without having to share secrets. Many countries are investing in quantum cryptography to build secure communication systems.

Japan has set aside funding to do so and China is already up and running with its own network. These complex systems apply the properties of quantum mechanics to a communication system.

The proposed Japanese system would work when an orbiting satellite receives instructions to deliver a set of keys to both the communication sender and the receiver. The sender uses this key to encrypt its data and the receiver uses their key to decode the data.

These keys are sent via a powerful laser beam of light particles (photons). Each key is only viable for single use.

In addition to this secure key generation, the system can detect any attempts to intercept the communication sending alerts to its administrators and changing the information being sent.

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