Gig City Goes Quantum: If You Build It, Make Sure They Come

“If you build it, they will come” is a phrase that gets tossed around a lot in telecom, and sometimes it’s true, but you can’t always count on it. This recognition is a likely driver behind the “Gig City Goes Quantum” initiative announced today to further the advancement of quantum networking, with a focus on the quantum network that utility company EPB is building in Chattanooga.

It’s a seemingly compelling slogan that aims to leverage EPB’s track record as a technology pioneer—first with the gigabit network that it built in Chattanooga a decade ago and now with the quantum network that it is building in the city and expects to make commercially available later this year to entities interested in pursuing quantum network applications and technologies.

EPB is building the quantum network in a partnership with quantum network technology developer Qubitekk.

Goals of the Gig City Goes Quantum Initiative include preparation for education, jobs and business opportunities in the emerging quantum technology sector.  Participants include local government entities such as the City of Chattanooga, the Chattanooga Public Library and Hamilton County Schools, as well as several commercial entities.

The latter category includes companies such as Qubitekk and Xairos, which is working on a GPS alternative.

An EPB spokesperson confirmed that the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga (UTC) will have a quantum node on the network when it launches this summer. The spokesperson also noted that several members of QED-C already have expressed strong interest in subscribing to the network.

QED-C was established by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to advance quantum information science and is part of a federal strategy for advancing quantum information science.

Big Hopes and Dreams

EPB sees the quantum network as a way of improving the economy and quality of life in Chattanooga. The company already spurred considerable progress on that front with its gigabit network.

“Chattanooga became known for the Gig because of a community-wide effort to foster entrepreneurial and business growth, which invigorated a new economy for the region,” said EPB President and CEO David Wade in today’s press release. “With EPB Quantum Network, exponentially broader opportunities will be possible for new jobs, educational resources and investments that don’t exist today, here or anywhere else.”

Also chiming in on the Gig City Goes Quantum news was Celia Merzbacher, executive director of QED-C.

“Gig City Goes Quantum is an opportunity for all of our QED-C members to engage in activities to develop a strong quantum ecosystem,” said Merzbacher. “EPB and Quibitekk’s partnership positions Chattanooga to lead in the quantum space and serves as an example to other municipalities of supporting meaningful progress to advance quantum investments in their communities.”

The Chattanooga quantum network will be deployed using over 200 optical fibers that were installed as part of Chattanooga’s citywide gigabit network. Quantum networks, however, transmit data using an approach that is completely different from the “ones and zeroes” that are traditionally used.

Quantum technology is expected to support faster speeds and more secure communications in comparison with today’s networks. Initial applications are seen in finance and government, but Qubitekk President, Chief Technology Officer and Co-founder Duncan Earl sees broader potential for the technology.

“Quantum technology holds the promise for revolutionary, groundbreaking possibilities that change how we all live and work,” said Earl.

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