Two weeks ago, using the simple mechanics of quantum entanglement, China became the first country to teleport information from Earth to a satellite in space. And it doesn’t plan to stop there with the firsts – because in August it has planned a launch of the world’s largest quantum communications network that should span over 2,000 km and link Beijing to Shanghai by passing through a message hub located in China’s Jinan city.
This network will be used for communication between government offices in the city with 200 users across the government, finance, military and electricity sectors, which will make Jinan the first city in the world to use a quantum communications network for its government’s functions.
This link between the two cities has started being tested in 2013, but the specific Jinan experiments started two months ago. This innovative network has reportedly sent and received data more than 51,000 times as of late with the rate of success is 99 percent, as told by China’s Xinhua News Agency. The data exchanged included secure phone calls, files and documents, and faxes even!
This quantum communication works in a specific manner that is unique to its technology. It uses fiber optic cables that are tried and true, but the one difference is in the way the data is being sent.
In order to begin a transfer of data, a key must be generated and sent over the network using traditional means, and once the key has been received, a single quantum-entangled photon is sent over the same fiber network, which is then used to teleport the information and decrypt it with the help of the key that they received. Although because of the way quantum-entangled particles are, any tampering of the photon will end up with it being changed or destroyed. This makes any interference a physically impossible, which makes the claims that China stated of having unhackable communication network true, for now at least.
One thing should be made clear – China isn’t the first to build a quantum communication network – these networks have been operating in the US and Europe the past few years, although only as research projects. China is, however, the first to use a network like this for a practical application.
The need for quantum communications network has risen with the progress being made with quantum computers. The usual ways of encrypting data are relying on simply hiding data behind a really difficult math problem, and if you have a key for it, it can be decrypted easily, and if you don’t it could be next to impossible.This is true for a traditional computer, but a quantum computer is much better at crunching numbers simultaneously, which makes it competent of brute forcing through some of the toughest encryption methods within a reasonable time.
Once matured, the technology will most likely be used by everyone – governments, banks, militaries, and everything in-between – but China may just be the first to have it for itself.