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Envisioning a Quantum leap for the future of Telecom

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By Lt. Gen. Dr. S.P. Kochhar, Director General, COAI

Quantum technologies represent a paradigm shift in the world of computing and telecommunications. It is not simply an incremental upgrade over classical computing, but rather a new approach that promises to provide unprecedented levels of speed, security, and efficiency.

Quantum communications can be used to transmit data securely and efficiently. Unlike classical communication, where information is transmitted in bits, quantum communication can transmit information in quantum bits, or qubits, which can be both 0 and 1 simultaneously. This property allows for much more efficient data transfer as well as the ability to perform calculations exponentially faster than classical technologies, allowing quantum computers to perform many calculations simultaneously, drastically reducing the time required to perform complex calculations

Additionally, quantum communication is inherently secure, as any attempt to eavesdrop on the communication will disturb the quantum state, alerting the sender and receiver to the intrusion. This makes quantum communication ideal for transmitting sensitive information, such as financial transactions and government communications.

Quantum technologies have the potential to revolutionize 5G networks by enhancing security, increasing network capacity, and reducing latency. Some of the applications of quantum technologies in 5G include quantum key distribution, quantum cryptography, and quantum sensing.

Quantum key distribution (QKD) is a technique that uses quantum mechanics to distribute encryption keys securely. QKD is a promising technology for 5G networks as it can provide unbreakable encryption, which is essential for securing critical communications. By using QKD, 5G networks can prevent eavesdropping and data tampering, which are major concerns in modern communication systems.

Quantum cryptography is another technology that can be used in 5G networks. It uses the principles of quantum mechanics to create unbreakable encryption codes. Quantum cryptography can ensure the integrity and confidentiality of data transmitted over 5G networks.

Quantum sensing is a technology that uses quantum mechanics to detect and measure physical parameters with high precision. Quantum sensors can be used in 5G networks to monitor the environment, detect anomalies, and optimize network performance.

Blockchain technology can also be used simultaneously with quantum technologies in 5G networks. Blockchain is a distributed ledger technology that can provide secure and transparent transactions. By using blockchain, 5G networks can ensure the authenticity of data, prevent data tampering, and enable decentralized trust. Blockchain can also enable secure peer-to-peer transactions, which can be useful for micropayments and other use cases in 5G networks.

There are several examples of the use of quantum technologies in 5G networks, although commercial deployment of these technologies is still in the early stages. Here are some examples:

1. In 2020, China Mobile partnered with QuantumCTek to deploy a 5G network that uses quantum cryptography to provide secure communication between two government agencies in Shanghai. The network uses QKD technology to encrypt data transmitted between the agencies, ensuring the security of the communication.

2. In 2021, SK Telecom, a South Korean telecommunications company, partnered with ID Quantique to deploy a 5G network that uses quantum cryptography to secure critical communication between its headquarters and data center. The network uses QKD technology to provide unbreakable encryption for data transmission.

As for factual figures, it is worth noting that quantum technologies are still in the early stages of commercial deployment in 5G networks, and it is difficult to provide exact numbers. However, it is estimated that the global market for quantum cryptography could reach $2.2 billion by 2026, driven by the growing demand for secure communication in 5G networks and other industries. Additionally, according to a report by ResearchAndMarkets, the market for quantum sensors is expected to grow from $278 million in 2020 to $1.1 billion by 2025, driven by the increasing adoption of quantum technologies in various applications, including 5G networks.

India has also been actively exploring the use of quantum technologies in various industries, including telecommunications. The Indian government announced the establishment of the Quantum Communication Application and Technology (Q-CAT) lab in Delhi, which is a joint initiative of the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) and the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Delhi. The lab is expected to develop indigenous technologies for secure communication, including QKD for 5G networks. The Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Pune (IISER) also established a Technology Innovation Hub (TIH) on Quantum Technology with support from the Department of Science and Technology (DST), which will work towards development of novel computing and quantum materials, sensors, quantum communication devices and systems along with quantum computers.

Recently, the Union Cabinet of the Indian Government approved the National Quantum Mission (NQM), which aims to accelerate research and development in quantum technologies and establish India as a leader in this field, and involves a cost of INR 6,003.65 crore from 2023-24 to 2030-31. With this, India becomes the sixth country in the world to have a dedicated quantum mission.

The import of these initiatives is significant as they reflect India’s recognition of the importance of quantum technologies in various industries, including telecommunications. The establishment of the Q-CAT lab and the NQM are expected to accelerate the development and adoption of quantum technologies in India, which could have implications for the global quantum technology landscape. Furthermore, the indigenous development of quantum technologies in India could lead to the creation of new jobs and the growth of the domestic technology industry. It is an exciting time to be at the forefront of this quantum revolution, where the possibilities for discovery and advancement are endless.

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