Can quantum computing can quickly solve network problems after a crisis?

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  • Quantum computing holds the promise of analyzing highly complex scenarios in telecom networks
  • A Spanish telecom vendor, Cinfo, ran a quantum computing test for the operator MásOrange
  • Cinfo hopes the technology can scale to help telcos around the world reduce major outages due to disasters and security incidents

A Spanish telecom vendor is working with a local telco to harness the emerging technology of quantum computing to help restore services in case a crisis brings down a large part of the network.

Cinfo, the vendor, is working with MásOrange, Spain’s largest telco, to investigate whether quantum computing can be used to reconfigure network assets in the event of a natural disaster or attack.

Cinfo believes telcos need the power of quantum computing to manage telco networks that have grown to be vast and complex over the course of years of growth, mergers and acquisitions, with a great deal of equipment from multiple vendors.

That complexity is why Cinfo is harnessing quantum computing, which holds the promise of quickly analyzing highly complex emergency scenarios to find the best solution, said Cinfo CEO Antonio Del Corral.

 “The motivation for the project is to provide a new tool to backbone managers in the event of a crisis,” Del Corral said.

Cinfo is working with a QuEra Computing, a Boston quantum computing vendor.

How quantum computing works

Quantum computing relies on a fundamentally different architecture than classical computing, explained Yuval Boger, chief commercial officer at QuEra. In classic computers, the fundamental computing unit is a bit, which can be either a 1 or a 0. Two classical bits could have four possible combinations: 00 or 01 or 10 or 11.

“Classical can only have one combination at any given time. But a quantum bit can have all four values at the same time with different probabilities,” Boger said. “That’s only with two qubits. If you have 100 qubits it can have more simultaneous values than atoms in the universe.”

He added, “A classical computer would explore sequentially, whereas a quantum computer can explore all at the same time.”

The promise of quantum computing is that these machines will be able to run programs that can solve problems that are just too hard for existing classical computers.

Boger gave the example of a delivery truck that needs to make 50 stops during the day and wants to optimize the route. Where should it stop first? Where next? What happens if traffic flows change? How do you answer these questions for a whole fleet of delivery trucks? Quantum computing can answer these questions quickly.

And network traffic is a similar problem, in many ways.

Cinfo worked with QuEra on a case study to test if quantum computing could reconfigure the MásOrange network if 20% of its capacity was damaged.

MásOrange launched in April as a merger of Orange Spain and the MASMOVIL Group, with more than 30 million mobile lines, 7.3 million mobile users and 2.3 million broadband users.

 “We had several meetings with network managers. We asked them for some real network topologies,” Cinfo’s Del Corral said. “[MásOrange has] a huge network across Spain with more than 60,000 nodes, central backbones, regional backbones. This is a very good use case.”

To test the quantum computer, they had to simplify the problem, so they created a toy model with enough complexity for a real test but enough simplicity to fit inside current quantum architectures. For that test, Cinfo and QuEra brought in another company, Kipu Quantum, to work in both a quantum computer and classical computer to verify accuracy.

“It was successful,” said Del Corral. “Quantum is able to cope with increased complexity that goes beyond human capacity.”

However, the technology will only be useful if they can map a real network into it. “It’s not realistic today,” said Del Corral. “But more or less by the end of 2025, we will have enough hardware capacity to model a regional backbone or something that can really compare with a network that is in production.”

Not only are network topologies very complex but they are constantly evolving, adding links, and equipment. “If this technology finally gets in production, it will be a permanent service, a continuous recipe for solving problems,” Del Corral said.

Another telco working with quantum is EPB in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Always a trailblazer, EPB is working with the tech company Qubitekk to launch what it claims to be America’s first industry-led, commercially available quantum network.

QuEra’s quantum computer

Quantum is so much more than the 1s and 0s and different companies are taking different approaches to building quantum computers.

QuEra builds its computers based on neutral atoms – those that are not charged, either positively or negatively. A space inside the computer holds atoms in a complete vacuum. In the QuEra computer, each qubit is one atom, and each atom is held in place by a tiny laser, Boger said.

A resting atom corresponds with a 0. QuEra’s proprietary technology excites electrons within an atom to move it to a higher energy level that corresponds with a 1. In this way, QuEra can create the four possibilities: 00, 01, 10 and 11.

“If I want to make these qubits interact, I move these laser beams,” Boger said. “At the end of the process, we take photo of the atoms and figure out what their result is.”

One of QuEra’s computers is connected to the cloud via Ethernet, and it’s available for usage through Amazon Web Services (AWS). “We put that computer in the cloud, and people from all over the world can test,” said Boger.

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