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Australian unis to test quantum-comms-over-fibre

Tests to see if entangled photons can survive real-world networks

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The University of New South Wales, one of the world's leaders in quantum computing research, will get the chance to put its work to the test in Australia's capital city, Canberra.

Within a few months, two nodes on Canberra's ICON network – one at the Australian National University, the other at the Australian Defence Force Academy – will be connected as a validation network for quantum key distribution technologies from QuintessenceLabs.

Professor Elanor Huntington, head of school in UNSW's School of Engineering and IT and a member of CQC2T, told The Register the proof-of-concept link will be aided by infrastructure and engineering support from QuintessenceLabs.

The group is seeking both to validate the operation of the quantum communication systems, and to test how well they operate on a live network, she said.

Into the future, the test bed will also provide a platform for more blue-sky research. When new quantum crypto protocols are proposed, Professor Huntington explained, a platform is needed to demonstrate that it operates and is at least as secure as its predecessors.

“At every step [of quantum communications research] you have to prove that what's proposed is actually an advance,” she said.

Professor Huntington highlighted the University of Queensland as a hotbed of theoretical work on quantum computing and communications in Australia. With the ICON network available and the high concentration of experimentalists in the discipline, Canberra is a natural place to create a test bed to complement that theoretical work.

ICON, the Intra-government Communications Network, is a federal-government owned fibre that spans Canberra's parliamentary triangle and beyond.

An example of quantum key distribution is to create entangled photons to carry the values of the shared secret between two ends of a conversation. Should a third party intercept or observe the key, the loss of entanglement should be measurable to the recipient since the entanglement is destroyed. ®

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