AT&T takes a quantum leap into new networking technologies

Guy Daniels
By Guy Daniels

Jun 1, 2017

© Caltech

© Caltech

  • AT&T and Caltech partner on quantum networking technologies
  • Established the new Alliance for Quantum Technologies
  • Focus on the need for capacity and security in future quantum networking
  • There’s no rush though, as this technology will still take decades to develop

The AT&T Foundry innovation centre in Palo Alto is joining the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) to form the Alliance for Quantum Technologies (AQT). The Alliance aims to bring industry, government, and academia together to speed quantum technology development and emerging practical applications. The collaboration will also establish a research and development program named INQNET (INtelligent Quantum NEtworks and Technologies) to focus on the need for capacity and security in communications through future quantum networking technologies.

Quantum computing is not for the faint hearted. It combines physics, engineering, computer science and applied mathematics to apply the laws of quantum mechanics to processing and distributing information. The result, hopefully, will be exponentially more powerful computing. Quantum networking is the process of linking these quantum computers and devices together to create fast and secure networks beyond anything possible today with traditional processors.

“Quantum computing and networking holds the potential to radically transform how we connect as a society,” said Igal Elbaz, VP ecosystem and innovation, AT&T. “It will make the impossible possible, as the internet once did. The AT&T Foundry was founded to advance new products and services through innovation and collaboration. It’s the ideal place for this work as quantum technologies become a rapidly developing field in industrial research.”

AT&T and Caltech, through AQT and INQNET, hope to create the model for technology development between academic institutions, industry and national laboratories. One of the first demonstrations of intelligent and quantum network technologies will be in quantum entanglement distribution and relevant benchmarking and validation studies using commercial fibre provided by AT&T.

AT&T and Caltech plan to address the workforce development necessary for quantum technologies. They will hold roundtables and workshops to discuss the latest relevant science and technology developments.

“With quantum technologies and quantum engineering we’re experiencing a revolution in the applied fundamental,” said Maria Spiropulu, professor of Physics at the California Institute of Technology. “It is quite thrilling to accelerate the progress by integrating systems and ongoing R&D and especially by bringing together the experts. The spirit of innovation and collaboration at the AT&T Foundry is the culture we hope permeates throughout this endeavour. I expect the catalysis effect on science and technology to be analogous.”

Telcos shouldn’t rush to develop quantum evolution strategies though, as this emerging field is still in its early stages. Whilst these technologies could change society and economies, it will take another couple of decades to even remotely approach commercialisation. AT&T is playing a long game here.

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