Telecom industry turns to quantum computing to overcome 5G and 6G bottlenecks

China Mobile technicians check a 5G base station in Tongling, Anhui province. [Photo by Guo Shining/for China Daily]

China Mobile, the world’s largest telecom operator with 900 million mobile subscribers, is exploring ways to harness quantum computing to overcome computing bottlenecks faced by 5G and 6G technologies.

China Mobile’s research institute has signed an agreement with Origin Quantum, a Chinese startup that focuses on quantum computing.

“This is the first cross-sector cooperation between quantum computing and the telecom industry in China, which has great value in exploring potential applications of quantum computing in big data, as well as building and optimizing complex networks in the field of mobile communication,” he said. Guo Guoping, a professor of quantum computing at the University of Science and Technology of China and chief scientist at Origin Quantum.

Under the agreement, Origin Quantum, based in Hefei, Anhui province, will provide quantum communication algorithms based on verifications from its superconducting quantum computer, OriginQ Wuyuan, to help overcome the computational bottlenecks faced by 5G and 6G.

Cui Chunfeng, president of the future research institute of the China Mobile Research Institute, said the 5G era has seen exponential growth in computing demand for signal processing, network optimization, big data analytics, processing imaging and other tasks. Traditional computer algorithms are finding it increasingly difficult to meet that demand.

In the future, 6G will require even greater computing capabilities than 5G. New technologies, such as quantum computing, will need to be introduced to help solve this challenge, Cui said.

Quantum computing is widely considered one of the most pioneering technologies, given its ability to take advantage of the laws of quantum mechanics and solve calculations too complex for even the most powerful conventional supercomputers.

It would take a quantum computer just 200 seconds to process calculations that the fastest supercomputer would take about 10,000 years to complete, said Dou Menghan, deputy director of the Anhui Quantum Computer Engineering Research Center.

Dou said that comparing the computing power of a quantum computer with a conventional computer is like comparing a conventional computer with an abacus.

China Mobile’s Cui said, “We hope to explore the possibility of applying quantum computing to enable network optimization, network autonomy, network security and the metaverse, and hope to solve (computational) bottlenecks ) for the development of a future network.

Established in 2017, Origin Quantum ranks first in China and sixth in the world for the number of invention patents it has applied for in quantum computing, according to the latest Global Quantum Computing Technology Patent Application Ranking List published by incoPat innovation index researcher and intellectual property media IPR Daily in October.

Han Jian, head of the secretariat of the quantum computing committee of the Institute of Communications of China, said China has more than 1.3 billion phone users and leveraging quantum computing to process telecommunication data is a new field that could become a a multi-billion dollar market. .

Quantum computing will be worth a conservative estimate of up to $700 billion by 2035 for industries including pharmaceutical, chemical, automotive and financial, according to a report by global consultancy McKinsey & Co.

China said in its 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25) that it will speed up frontier science and technology projects such as quantum computing and quantum communication.

Internationally, US tech companies like Google, IBM and Microsoft are accelerating steps to develop quantum computing platforms. Chinese tech heavyweights including Alibaba, Baidu and Tencent have also tapped into the quantum computing sector.

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