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Quantum Internet is Coming, With Fiber Playing A Critical Role

Quantum technologies are expected to generate $1.3 trillion in value by 2035, according to a recent McKinsey study. Still, plenty of work needs to be done before then, with fiber playing a critical role.

“Fiber broadband providers are going to be critical to moving around qubits over fiber,” said Dr. Duncan Earl, Co-Founder, President, and Chief Technology Officer of Qubitekk, a quantum networking company working on the building blocks for building tomorrow’s large-scale quantum networks. “Most quantum networks today are smaller, metro level networks that are typically isolated. You’ll see a network that might be across a downtown region in a city and then another network a few cities away or in another state right now. Eventually, we’ll be tying all those networks together to create a quantum internet. Right now, we have quantum local area networks.”

It will be another two to three years of work as researchers and operators understand how to tie networks together and conduct long-distance communications. Current efforts are focused on building quantum memory, similar to how traditional computer memory stores and passes along data that can be incorporated into long-distance quantum repeaters. Those will be used to tie together smaller quantum networks.

“I believe over the next 12 months, you’ll start to see commercial versions of quantum memories,” said Earl. “And soon after that, commercial versions of quantum repeaters. We’re not far from that, but there’s some work to do.” 

Dark fiber will be necessary for linking together quantum networks, since it will be dedicated to carrying qubits, or individual particles of light. Large scale quantum networks will enable breakthroughs in the fields of cybersecurity, speeding up computational models for chemistry and drug discovery, and new sensors that could enable the detection of earthquakes two hours before they occur.  

“Cybersecurity is a big deal, especially with infrastructure,” said Earl. “What we’re going to be able to do with quantum networks is develop security that can’t be intercepted, can’t be cracked. It will be much higher levels of security that we can distribute and use for things like infrastructure security associated with the electrical grid, oil pipelines, things like that.” 

To learn more about the promise and potential of quantum networks, listen to the latest Fiber for Breakfast podcast.