ARTICLE: Raconteur – Quantum networking: communicate at the speed of thought

Advances in real-time networking are coming and this means much more than just faster internet speed and enhanced phone coverage – it will bring communication at the speed of thought

There are now 20 billion devices connected to the internet of things, according to IHS Markit. By 2030, this number will grow to 500 billion, CISCO, whose hardware currently runs 80 per cent of the internet, predicts.

“The network is becoming the fourth utility,” says Chintan Patel, a senior strategist at CISCO. “Now, every business is essentially becoming a technology business, with the network being the platform on which they run.”

If the average company network manager is overseeing a hundred devices today, this could reach into the millions in the future, says Mr Patel.

“As we connect everything, the scale at which networks need to operate is going to fundamentally change,” he adds.

This is especially true if emerging technologies such as self-driving cars, telemedicine, drones, artificial intelligence, augmented reality and virtual reality are to become ubiquitous.

Today the LTE/4G network works well, most of the time. But 5G, expected around 2020, will be transformative for business, say those developing it.

Sandra Rivera, senior vice president and general manager of the network platforms group at Intel Corporation, says the 5G network will have fifty times the peak data rate and ten times lower latency than 4G.

“This is the difference between a real-time image being transferred and transmitted in less than 10 milliseconds compared to up to one minute, or even an hour, in some networks,” she told the Web Summit in November.

The fifth-generation network should enable new uses and capabilities as well as lead to increased productivity.

“By having better and more ubiquitous connectivity, you’re going to get more done on the go; this can benefit UK productivity and in turn the economy,” Mr Patel says.

CISCO piloted 5G with Verizon Communications in the United States earlier this year with the potential to disrupt some industries. For example, the physical supply chain could be in part displaced by 3D printing enabled by 5G. Designs could be exchanged over the network as simply and frequently as exchanging a text message and then 3D printed.

But 5G is only networking in real time. Fast forward ten years and the capabilities of the network might be beyond our current comprehension.

In May, The AT&T Foundry innovation centre in Palo Alto joined the California Institute of Technology to form the Alliance for Quantum Technologies, which aims to bring industry, government and academia together to speed up development of quantum technology for the network.

Quantum networking is the process of linking quantum computers and devices together to create fast and secure networks beyond anything possible today with traditional processors. But what does this mean exactly?

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