Fiber’s unique capability to move light places it in a key role for the next technological revolution. Moving and sharing photons – individual particles of light – is the cornerstone of quantum technologies such as networking, sensing, computing, and cryptography.
“The level of the very small is what's driving a lot of these technologies,” said Duncan Earl, President, Co-Founder, and Chief Technology Officer for Qubitekk, a quantum networking company. “The result is that these new technologies are not just an iterative improvement, they're a paradigm shift. When we say there are powerful new quantum computers that are coming, we're talking about billions and billions of times more powerful for certain types of problems, problems that we can't solve today.”
Being able to measure, control, and move a single photon at a time is at the heart of quantum networks in research facilities. As well as the first commercial quantum network deploying in Chattanooga, Tennessee, with fiber being the only medium that can be used to move photons without interference. The EPB Chattanooga network uses dedicated strands of fiber for its quantum network and will be able to support between 10 to 15 users at a time to work with different resources.
Today’s early-stage quantum networks are less about speed, only transmitting anywhere between 1 to 10 kilobits of information per second, and more about moving beyond lab testbeds into commercial applications. Chattanooga will have the largest quantum network outside of a research lab and be available for anyone to come in and test and refine new quantum applications for real-world use.
Over the next 20 years, Earl expects commercial quantum applications to deliver breakthroughs in the treatment of certain kinds of cancers, seamless and rapid language translation, improved user interfaces able to read your body and facial expressions to enable true conversational discussions and deliver improved health care, and quantum sensing able to predict natural disasters like tornados or the first warning signs of earthquakes.
But to move out of the lab and into commercial applications will require more commercial fiber. “We have a lot of national labs and universities that are trying to set up test beds, but we really need broadband network providers to be integrated in this process,” said Earl. “We need to lay this infrastructure for quantum networks for all these applications to become possible, but in order to do that we need broadband provider support and involvement.”
For more information on fiber’s role in the quantum world, tune into the latest Fiber For Breakfast.