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Telecom industry looks to quantum computing to overcome 5G, 6G bottlenecks

By MA SI | China Daily | Updated: 2022-12-22 07:10

Technicians from China Mobile check a 5G base station in Tongling, Anhui province. [Photo by Guo Shining/for China Daily]

China Mobile, the world's largest telecom carrier with 900 million mobile subscribers, is exploring ways to tap into quantum computing to overcome computational bottlenecks facing 5G and 6G technologies.

The research institute of China Mobile has signed a deal with Origin Quantum, a Chinese startup focusing on quantum computing.

"This is the first cross-sector cooperation between quantum computing and the telecom industry in China, which has big value in exploring potential applications of quantum computing in big data as well as complex network construction and optimization in the field of mobile communication," said Guo Guoping, a professor of quantum computing at the University of Science and Technology of China and chief scientist at Origin Quantum.

Under the agreement, Origin Quantum, based in Hefei, Anhui province, will provide quantum communication algorithms based on verifications by its superconducting quantum computer, OriginQ Wuyuan, to help overcome the computational bottlenecks facing 5G and 6G.

Cui Chunfeng, president of the future research institute of the China Mobile Research Institute, said the 5G era has seen exponential growth in computing demand from signal processing, network optimization, big data analysis, image processing and other tasks. Traditional computer algorithms are finding it increasingly difficult to meet such demand.

In the future, 6G will require even higher computing capabilities than 5G. It will be necessary to introduce new technologies, such as quantum computing, to help solve this challenge, Cui said.

Quantum computing is widely regarded as one of the most pioneering technologies, given its ability to harness the laws of quantum mechanics and solve calculations too complex for even the most powerful conventional supercomputers.

It would take a quantum computer only 200 seconds to process calculations that the fastest supercomputer would take about 10,000 years to complete, said Dou Menghan, deputy director of the Anhui Quantum Computing Engineering Research Center.

Dou said comparing the computing power of a quantum computer with a conventional computer is like comparing a conventional computer with an abacus.

Cui, from China Mobile, said, "We hope to explore the possibility of applying quantum computing to enable network optimization, network autonomy, network security and the metaverse, and we hope to solve the (computational) bottlenecks for the development of a future network."

Established in 2017, Origin Quantum is ranked first in China and sixth in the world by the number of invention patents it has applied for in quantum computing, according to the latest Global Quantum Computing Technology Patent Filings Ranking List released by the innovation index researcher incoPat and intellectual property media IPR Daily in October.

Han Jian, head of the secretariat of the quantum computing committee of the China Institute of Communications, said China has more than 1.3 billion phone users, and leveraging quantum computing to process telecom data is a new field that could grow into a multibillion-dollar market.

Quantum computing will have a conservative estimated value of up to $700 billion by 2035 for industries such as pharmaceuticals, chemicals, automotive and finance, according to a report by global consulting firm McKinsey& Co.

China said in its 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25) that it will speed up frontier science and technological blueprints, such as quantum computing and quantum communication.

Internationally, US tech companies such as Google, IBM and Microsoft are accelerating steps to develop quantum computing platforms. Chinese tech heavyweights including Alibaba, Baidu and Tencent have also tapped into the quantum computing sector.

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