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What Is Quantum Computing?

With the continuation of Industry 4.0 and technological advancements that are happening across the globe right now, quantum computers will help push innovations even further. Spurring development in science, machine learning and algorithms, quantum computing is a new kind of computing, built for the future.

But what is meant by quantum computing? And what does it mean from the perspective of the telecommunications industry?

What Exactly Is Quantum Computing?

There are different models of quantum computing, with the most widely used one being the quantum circuit. All computers store and manipulate information. The classical computers we know manipulate individual bits, storing information as binary 0 and 1 states.

Quantum computers rely on qubits, which is a two-state system. Quantum mechanics allows the qubit to be in a coherent superposition of both states simultaneously, using super dense coding.

Graphic of a qubit to answer what is quantum computing

The systems we use today have their limits. There are complex problems which our current systems will never be able to solve. This is where quantum computing comes in, as to solve these problems, we need systems that can work faster and with success every time.

Only a few years ago, quantum computing was an entirely theoretical subject. Now, researchers all over the world are testing algorithms for application of quantum computing in an array of industries.

Use Cases in Telecommunications

When considering how quantum computing can be used in a telecommunications capacity, there are a few potential use cases. These include site planning, RAN developments and network optimisation.

Site Planning

Back in February 2020, TIM claimed to be the first operator in Europe to use quantum computing to plan its 5G network. The telco used the quadratic unconstrained binary optimisation algorithm which identifies patterns in sequences in data. TIM said that using this algorithm to plan cell IDs led to a more stable VoLTE experience for moving customers.

RAN Development

Physical layer processing functions have tight requirements when it comes to latency. Due to this, they are most likely executed on local hardware instead of cloud-based hardware.

A quantum chipset has the capacity of 50-100 qubits. As quantum chips become available in compact forms, they could be used closer to customer locations, or even in the digital unit, used in quantum processors to target acceleration of virtualized RAN functions.

Network Optimisation

Quantum computers require specialised algorithms to offer quick and accurate operations. Certain algorithms will improve calculating abilities, operating speed while achieving global convergence. These could lead many applications for network optimisation such as addressing complex business problems and saving costs.

Difficulties with Quantum Computing

We are still in the early days of quantum computing and there are several challenges to overcome.

As mentioned previously, quantum computing relies on qubits, two-state system. Qubits are fragile and require very low temperatures to operate. This makes it difficult to build, verify and design quantum systems.

When a complete state is achieved, this may not be measured precisely. In quantum computing, errors occur more often than with classical computing, making it less reliable.

As well as this, another potential problem area is the building of architectures between quantum computers and communication systems. Without the necessary algorithms needed to operate networks, the hardware will not be functional. More work is needed to realise these algorithms.

Though we do not expect to see quantum computing to become a more solid concept until 3-5 years (or more) time, work has already begun to make the ideology a reality. As with TIM and IBM, we imagine quantum computing will not only have an impact on telecommunication suppliers and their networks, but also for the customers they serve.

Sources: IBM, Ericsson

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