Quantum communication – communication of the future

Quantum communication – communication of the future

One of the main variants of the expected evolution of communication is based on the use of quantum effects. This technology does not exclude, but can complement traditional types of communication, although, as history shows, different generations of communication standards replace each other very quickly, leaving some of them in the past.

The telegraph “shut up” the pigeon mail. Radio replaced the wired telegraph. And although the radio itself has not disappeared, other data transmission technologies have appeared – wired and wireless.

The current younger generation hardly knows about pagers, and if a decade ago 3G mobile Internet was a luxury, now 5G has become an affordable reality.

Leading mobile operators of the People’s Republic of China began to provide the population with fifth-generation communication services from the end of October 2019. According to the Chinese Academy of Information and Communication Technologies, the volume of deliveries of 5G mobile communication technology in China in 2020 amounted to 163 million units, which is almost 12 times higher than in 2019.

According to Chinese experts, the full transition from 4G to 5G smartphones in their country will take from three to four years. It is quite possible that in the near future we will need fundamentally new technologies that will surpass modern ones no less than the radio telegraph – pigeons.

Today, around the world, much attention is paid to quantum communication as one of the most promising areas for the development of global communications. The advantage of a quantum communication network over a conventional data network is its safety. This is due to the entanglement of photons, which is a peculiar phenomenon in quantum mechanics. The creation of a secure information transmission network will be the answer to one of the most acute global challenges related to cybersecurity.

The first protocol of quantum cryptography (encryption key distribution) appeared in 1984, and then it was believed that it could be used to transmit information in such a way that it could not be intercepted under any circumstances. Then it was proved that absolutely reliable systems do not exist. Nevertheless, work on the creation of many as experimental so commercial systems based on the phenomena of the quantum world continued in many countries.

For the first time in the world, photon teleportation took place in 1997. In quantum teleportation, there is no material transfer of an object from point A to point B – there is a transfer of “information”, not substance matter or energy. Teleportation is used for quantum communications, for example, to transmit secret information. At the same time, we are not talking about information in the usual form.

Only encryption keys are transmitted over quantum communication lines, not gigabytes of the usual traffic. Simplifying the quantum teleportation model, we can say that it will allow us to generate a sequence of random numbers at both ends of the channel, that is, we will be able to create a Vernam cipher that cannot be intercepted. In the foreseeable future, this is still the only thing that can be done with the help of quantum teleportation.

At first, teleportation over fiber-optic networks was possible only for short distances, but after two decades the situation has changed significantly. For example, within the framework of the European Program in the field of quantum cryptography, a record of 144 kilometers was achieved. An important milestone in the creation of quantum communication and overcoming its vulnerabilities was the launch of the QUESS (Quantum Experiments at Space Scale) satellite by China with the aim of implementing quantum key distribution schemes at a distance of more than 7,000 kilometers. 

Taking into account the pace of creation of projects in the field of quantum computing and data transmission, the technology of quantum communication is finally leaving the laboratories and, according to experts, will become as familiar as mobile communications. This is confirmed by recent reports that China has created the world’s first secure and stable communication network using quantum cryptography.

The unique quantum communication network includes the QUESS satellite or Mo-Tzu, two ground stations and more than 700 fiber-optic lines. Currently, data transmission services on this network, covering the cities of Beijing, Jinan, Hefei and Shanghai, are available to more than 150 organizations. The length of the Beijing-Jinan-Hefei-Shanghai line exceeds 2,000 km. At the same time, the distance between the two ground stations located in Beijing and the Xinjiang – Uygur Autonomous Region is more than 2,600 km. Thus, the total length of the entire network is 4,600 km.

The key management using entangled particles – photons – marked the beginning of the quantum communication era. Scientists believe that quantum communication will find wide application in the field of finance, politics, national defense, etc.

It is quite possible that in the future a global quantum network will be created by connecting more networks from different countries of the world using ground infrastructure or satellite communications. Dozens of such satellites could become the basis not only for a new quantum Internet on the Earth, but also for quantum communication in space: for future settlements on the Moon and Mars, and for deep space communication with satellites heading beyond the Solar System.

Ogulgozel REJEPOVA