China To Launch Hack-Proof Quantum Communication Network in 2016

China will complete and put into service the world’s longest quantum
communication network
stretching 2,000km from Beijing to Shanghai by
2016, say scientists leading the project.

The quantum network is considered “unhackable” and will provide the most secure encryption technology to users.

By 2030, the Chinese network would be extended worldwide, Xinhua reported.

China is the first major power to come up with a detailed schedule to put the technology into extensive, large-scale use. The South China Morning Post earlier reported that Beijing would launch the world’s first quantum communication satellite in 2016.

Xinhua said the network would be used by the central government, military and critical business institutions like banks.

The ambitious targets were revealed by Professor Pan Jianwei, a
quantum physicist with the University of Science and Technology of China
and a lead scientist of the national quantum communication project,
during an international conference on quantum communication in Hebei
yesterday, Xinhua reported.

“China’s quantum information science and technology is developing
very fast and China leads in some areas in this field,” he was quoted as
saying. “Any city in China, as long they want to, can start to build
the quantum communication network now.”

Quantum communication network
Quantum
communication network

Chen Yuxiang , USTC quantum physicist and chief engineer for the
construction of the Beijing-Shanghai link, said the key infrastructure
would be completed between the end of the year and next summer.

Then the link would be built and activated, with the inclusion of
existing quantum networks in other cities such as Hefei and Jinan .

Edward Snowden’s revelations last year that the US was targeting
“network backbones”, through which huge amounts of data are transmitted,
convinced Chinese leaders that developing the next generation of
internet infrastructure was a priority.

A quantum communication network is, in theory, unbreakable. Any
attempt to intercept the encryption key would alter the physical status
of the quantum data, or qubits, and trigger an alert to the
communicators.

Though the technology was proposed by IBM scientists as early as the
1980s, quantum communication has been limited to short distances due to
the technological difficulty in maintaining the qubit’s fragile quantum
state, such as spin, over a long distance.

China was in a race with other countries to develop the technology
and, thanks to generous funding, scientists achieved numerous
significant breakthroughs in recent years. Pan’s team conducted the
world’s first experiment on quantum key distribution from a satellite
last year.

Governments in Europe, Japan and Canada are about to launch their own
quantum communication satellite projects and a private company in the
US has been seeking funding from the federal government with a proposal
for a 10,000km network linking major cities.

The Beijing-Shanghai project was launched last year. Though the
government has not revealed its budget, mainland scientists told state
media that the construction cost would be 100 million yuan (HK$126
million) for every 10,000 users.