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EPB, the Chattanooga power company that pioneered gigabit connectivity to the home over a decade ago, has further leveraged its network assets to establish a quantum network that will be available to entrepreneurs wanting to new pursue opportunities involving the technology, as well as to academic and government users.

EPB, in cooperation with quantum technology developer Qubitekk, expects to offer quantum-as-a-service by mid-2023. The service, in turn, is expected to open up new economic opportunities involving healthcare, finance and network security.

Chattanooga’s big move in deploying gigabit service 10 years ago generated substantial economic benefits and the hope is that the new offering will replicate or even exceed the results from the gigabit deployment.

“Chattanooga is once again positioned to lead, this time in an emerging sector that will be vital to our national economy and perhaps to our national security in the months and years ahead,” said Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly at a launch event for the quantum network today.

“This is huge news for our city, our region, and our nation. . . If we get this right . . . our region will have a real opportunity to become the nation’s next leading innovation and technology hub with potential for federal funding that would catalyze unprecedented levels of economic growth and create hundreds of new jobs in high-wage, high-growth sectors in the Tennessee Valley corridor.”

Quantum Computing Basics

As a press release from EPB and Qubitekk explains, quantum-based communications “reproduce a naturally occurring phenomenon in which a pair of light particles (photons) can be linked or ‘entangled’ such that any change in one of the photons is instantaneously mirrored by its twin even when they are separated by great distances.”

Tapping this technology paves the way for a network to support heavier computational capabilities than today’s communications networks can handle.

As Vicky Gregg, chair of the EPB board, explained today, EPB began working with Quibitekk, Oak Ridge Laboratories and Los Alamos National Laboratory in 2021 on a project funded through the U.S. Department of Energy aimed at tapping quantum computing to secure the U.S. electric grid against cyber threats.

The partners established what today’s press release calls a “comprehensive quantum network solution.”

EPB and Qubitekk will add more nodes to this network to establish the network that will underlie the upcoming quantum-as-a-service offering, explained Duncan Earl, Qubitekk president and CTO, at today’s event. Also underlying the network are 200 optical fibers, Earl said.

“This is critical infrastructure that is badly needed by the quantum industry,” Earl said.

Today’s press release includes additional commentary from Earl explaining this need.

“If U.S. companies and researchers continue to develop quantum technologies in isolation, they face barriers such as the cost and time necessary to put together an end-to-end solution instead of focusing on their particular piece of the puzzle,” Earl explained. “EPB Quantum Network powered by Qubitekk is purpose-built infrastructure that allows quantum technologists to run their solution collaboratively with other technologies while retaining their proprietary data and intellectual property.”

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