Quantum Networks

Utility and fiber network provider EPB has selected the vendor for a key element of the quantum internet network planned for Chattanooga. The vendor, Aliro Quantum, will provide quantum network controllers.

The controllers will be the user interface for commercial customers that want to connect to the EPB quantum network. Aliro Quantum will also provide the network operator’s interface, which will allow EPB operators to manage and monitor the quantum network infrastructure.

EPB may be best known as the company that pioneered gigabit fiber networking over a decade ago. In November the company announced plans to partner with quantum network technology developer Qubitekk to build a quantum internet testbed in Chattanooga.

Quantum networks are expected to support faster speeds and more secure connections by using a totally new approach to networking. Instead of relying on the transmission of ones and zeros as in a traditional fiber network, quantum networks rely on entangled light particles, or photons, which can be located great distances from one another. When the photons are entangled, any change in one of the photons is instantaneously mirrored by its twin.

EPB hopes to attract companies developing quantum network technology to Chattanooga to use the network.

“We expect to begin connecting our first customers later this summer,” said Duncan Earl, Qubitekk president and CEO, in an email in response to questions from Telecompetitor. “Currently the network is designed to support 10 users with flexibility to increase that number over time.”

How Quantum Connections are Established

In an email in response to questions from Telecompetitor, Cara Alexander, product manager for Aliro Quantum, described how quantum connections are established.

“The connection is established in two steps,” said Alexander. “Let’s call the first remote endpoint Alice, and the second one Bob.  First, entangled photon pairs are generated and prepared. Once the prepared photon pair is ready, one half of the entangled state is sent on fiber optic cable to Alice, and the other half is similarly sent to Bob.”

A separate control channel “guides this whole process by providing context and timing information,” Alexander explained. “It can be thought of as a little bit like sending a data header for the entangled photon on a different channel.”

She added that the quantum network controller “allows network users to use the network without performing any of the needed set-up including provisioning, routing, and manually interfacing with hardware.”

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