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Optical and Quantum Communications, and The Quantum Internet

(The World Fiber Communication Network - The Fiber Optic Association)


Transforming the Way the World Connects



- Fiber Optic Technology

Everywhere on this planet hair-thin optical fibers carry vast quantities of information from place to place. There are many desirable properties of optical fibers for carrying this information. They have enormous information-carrying capacity, are low cost, and possess immunity from the many disturbances that can afflict electrical wires and wireless communication links. The superiority of optical fibers for carrying information from place to place is leading to their rapidly replacing older technologies. Optical fibers have played a key role in making possible the extraordinary growth in world-wide communications, and are vital in enabling the proliferating use of the Internet.

Today’s global businesses demand faster, more secure and larger capacity communication systems for their network operations. Fiber optic technology is expected to play a major part in this growth. A Research and Markets study determined that the compound annual growth rate for the fiber optic market could reach 8.5 percent by 2025, meaning more industries will be looking to the solutions presented by this technology. From healthcare systems to the marine environment, fiber optic cable is proving to be a crucial component of industrial infrastructure. 

Fiber optic cable assemblies are also playing an increasingly vital role in residential applications. Homeowners now expect high-speed Internet access as part of their daily lives, and telecom and data industry leaders are turning to fiber optic technology as a clean, reliable way to provide expected services.   

(Dr. Charles Kao at work in his laboratory at Harlow, England in 1966.)

- Dr. Charles Kuen Kao - The Father of Fiber Optic Communication

Dr. Charles Kuen Kao is known as the “father of fiber optic communications” for his discovery in the 1960s of certain physical properties of glass, which laid the groundwork for high-speed data communication in the Information Age. Before Kao's pioneering work, glass fibers were widely believed to be unsuitable as a conductor of information because of excessively high signal loss from light scattering. Kao realized that, by carefully purifying the glass, bundles of thin fibers could be manufactured that would be capable of carrying huge amounts of information over long distances with minimal signal attenuation and that such fibers could replace copper wires for telecommunication. He shared the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physics with Canadian physicist Willard S. Boyle (1924-2011) and American scientist George E. Smith (1930-), coinventors of the charge-coupled device, which is used to convert optical information to an electrical signal. Fiber optics and charge-coupled devices made possible the broadband communications on which contemporary medical informatics and electronic publishing depend, as well as specific imaging devices in ophthalmologic equipment and microscopes.    


- Fiber Optic Communication

Fiber optic communication is a communication technology that uses fiber optic cables for data transmission. Fiber-optic cables, also known as light-pipes, are designed to transmit digital data and information in the form of light signals over long distances with very little loss. These cables are made from bundles of optical fibers which are long, thin strands of pure glass, each strand being nearly as thin as human hair. A high quality communication cable is made of glass or silicon dioxide. Normally, we think glass is brittle and can break easily, but when it is made thinner than a human hair, it becomes very flexible and strong. You can also find fiber-optic cables made of plastic, which are used for very short distance (a few meters) communication, for example, that is used in hi-fi systems to carry audio information.

- Quantum Secure Communications

Quantum secure communication are methods which are expected to be 'quantum safe' in the advent of a quantum computing systems that could break current cryptography systems. One significant component of a quantum secure communication systems is expected to be Quantum key distribution, or 'QKD': a method of transmitting information using entangled light in a way that makes any interception of the transmission obvious to the user. Another technology in this field is the quantum random number generator used to protect data. This produces truly random number without following the procedure of the computing algorithms that merely imitate randomness.

Quantum computers are the ultimate quantum network, and are devices that can store and process quantum data (as opposed to binary data) with links that can transfer quantum information between 'quantum bits' or 'qubits'. If successfully developed, quantum computers are predicted to be able to perform certain algorithms significantly faster than even the largest classical computer available today. 

Quantum computers are expected to have a number of important uses in computing fields such as optimization and machine learning. They are perhaps best known for their expected ability to carry out 'Shor's Algorithm', which can be used to factorise large numbers, an important process in the securing of data transmissions.


- Quantum Communication Networks

[World Economic Forum]: The word “quantum” sounds so advanced and complex that people tend to get hyped up about anything attached to it. While not every quantum breakthrough elicits a positive response, in the case of a so-called quantum Internet, people have a reason to be excited. 

Researchers have recently made significant progress in building this quantum communication network. China launched the world’s first quantum communication satellite in 2016, and they’ve since been busy testing and extending the limitations of sending entangled photons from space to ground stations on Earth and then back again. They’ve also managed to store information using quantum memory. By the end of August, 2017, the nation plans to have a working quantum communication network to boost the Beijing-Shanghai internet. Leading these efforts is Jian-Wei Pan of the University of Science and Technology of China, and he expects that a global quantum network could exist by 2030. That means a quantum internet is just 13 years away, if all goes well."

China has developed the world’s first mobile quantum satellite station (January, 2020). The world’s first portable ground station for sending and receiving secure quantum communications is up and running. The mobile, portable satellite station leverages the intrinsic properties of photons for establishing a secure channel for transmitting and receiving quantum communications. And the station has been successfully connected to Mozi, which was the world's first quantum communications satellite developed back in 2016.


- Quantum Internet

As China moves closer to building a working quantum communications network, the possibility of a quantum Internet becomes more and more real. In the simplest of terms, a quantum Internet would be one that uses quantum signals instead of radio waves to send information. The future quantum Internet would utilize qubits of quantum information, which can take on an infinite number of values.

The Internet as we know it uses radio frequencies to connect various computers through a global web in which electronic signals are sent back and forth. In a quantum internet, signals would be sent through a quantum network using entangled quantum particles. A quantum Internet will be the platform of a quantum ecosystem, where computers, networks, and sensors exchange information in a fundamentally new manner where sensing, communication, and computing literally work together as one entity,



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