China to launch hack-proof quantum communication network

China will put into service the world's longest hack-proof quantum communication network stretching 2,000 km from Beijing to Shanghai by 2016, scientists have said.

PTI| Updated: Nov 04, 2014, 16:44 PM IST
China to launch hack-proof quantum communication network

Beijing: China will put into service the world's longest hack-proof quantum communication network stretching 2,000 km from Beijing to Shanghai by 2016, scientists have said.

The quantum network is considered "unhackable" and will provide the most secure encryption technology to users.

US whisleblower Edward Snowden's disclosure last year that America was targeting "network backbones", through which huge amounts of data are transmitted, convinced Chinese leaders that developing the next generation of internet infrastructure was a priority, Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported today.

Any attempt to intercept the encryption key would alter the physical status of the quantum data, or qubits, and trigger an alert to the communicators, it said.

"China's quantum information science and technology is developing very fast and China leads in some areas in this field," Pan Jianwei, a Chinese quantum scientist and professor at the University of Science and Technology of China told state-run Xinhua news agency.

The field of quantum communication, the science of transmitting quantum states from one place to another, grabbed global attention in recent years after the discovery of quantum cryptography, which is described as a way of creating "unbreakable" messages.

China will achieve Asia-Europe intercontinental quantum key distribution in 2020 and build a global quantum communication network in 2030, Pan told the 2014 International Conference on Quantum Communication, Measurement and Computing, in east China's Hefei city.

"The technology of metropolitan quantum communication is basically mature, but if we want to achieve worldwide communication, we need the help of satellites," he said.

More than 400 experts from 28 countries and regions will discuss research, achievements and industrialization in the quantum information field during the meeting.

China is the first major power to come up with a detailed schedule to put the technology into extensive, large-scale use, the Post report said.

The network would be used by the central government, military and critical business institutions like banks.

Chen Yuxiang , USTC quantum physicist and chief engineer for the construction of the Beijing-Shanghai link, said the key infrastructure would be completed between the end of the year and next summer.

Though the technology was proposed by IBM scientists as early as the 1980s, quantum communication has been limited to short distances due to the technological difficulty in maintaining the qubit's fragile quantum state, such as spin, over a long distance.

China was in a race with other countries to develop the technology and, thanks to generous funding, scientists achieved numerous significant breakthroughs in recent years.

Pan's team conducted the world's first experiment on quantum key distribution from a satellite last year, the Post report said.

Governments in Europe, Japan and Canada are about to launch their own quantum communication satellite projects and a private company in the US has been seeking funding from the federal government with a proposal for a 10,000 km network linking major cities.

The Beijing-Shanghai project was launched last year.

Though the government has not revealed its budget, mainland scientists told state media that the construction cost would be 100 million yuan (USD 16 million) for every 10,000 users.