LG U+ bangs the drum for quantum comms research

Korean operator LG U+ has called for more research into distributed quantum computing to overcome some of the technology's challenges.

Nick Wood

April 15, 2024

3 Min Read

While the processing power – measured in qubits – of quantum processors is steadily increasing, LG U+ has nevertheless warned in a new white paper that current designs are still fairly limited, posing "a major problem" when it comes to unleashing their full capabilities.

To get around it, LG U+ has lent its support to an ongoing research effort that seeks to combine the power of multiple processors by linking them with quantum communication networks, enabling the state of a qubit in one processor to be transferred to another.

The result is distributed quantum computing (DQT), and LG U+ – together with researchers from Seoul National University's NXC Lab – has proposed a design for a quantum network that can cost-effectively daisy chain quantum processors, beefing up the overall performance of the system.

In essence, LG U+ et al have worked up a blueprint for a quantum network that can also carry data churned out by regular old classical processors.

"The proposed structure allows communication using a quantum network for all application technologies that require a network, and reuses the existing classical network as an auxiliary channel for quantum transmission," the telco explains. "The biggest advantage of choosing this structure is that the main data exchange is carried out mainly through a quantum communication network, so the cost of maintaining the existing data network can be reduced. That is, only the cost of developing a quantum channel is incurred, and the cost of reinstalling an auxiliary channel or developing a classical channel can be saved."

While there is a lot of research still to be done, if it works, it has the potential significantly lower the barrier to improving quantum computing performance and ultimately stimulate adoption.

"We have published this white paper to predict the coming quantum communication era in advance and find ways to contribute to a more advanced society through research and development and business," said Lee Sang-heon, head of network advanced development at LG U+.

The LG U+ white paper came out days after the European Commission urged Member States to push on with rolling out quantum cryptography, preparing networks for when quantum processors will make it easy to circumvent today's encryption methods.

"It is vital that communications remain protected in the future for the security of our citizens, societies, economies and the EU's digital single market," the Commission said.

Quantum key distribution (QKD) has been hailed as an effective means of enabling quantum safe networks, since any nefarious attempt to intercept these keys introduces easily-detectable anomalies into the system. The EU's recommendation paper encourages Member States to secure critical network infrastructure "via hybrid schemes that may combine post-quantum cryptography with existing cryptographic approaches or with quantum key distribution."

QKD has been getting a lot of attention in recent years, too much attention if anything, according to LG U+.

"Quantum key distribution, one of the applied technologies, has been mistakenly known to represent quantum communication," said professor Kyung-han Lee, head of NXC Lab. "I hope that the white paper will serve as an opportunity to arouse interest in quantum communication and revitalise the overall ecosystem."

Meanwhile, in addition to quantum communication, LG U+ has also been on an AI recruitment drive in Silicon Valley.

CEO Hwang Hyun-sik recently hosted a get-together with leading researchers and academics in Palo Alto, to showcase how his company – and the wealth of data it captures – can advance their careers.

LG has its own large language model (LLM), ixi-GEN, which – unlike general purpose generative AI (GenAI) – specialises in customer service for comms providers. It launched its first chatbot, called 'ixi', last week.

With that in mind, it's interesting that a telco that seems to be ahead of the game when it comes to AI development should feel the need to head to Silicon Valley to attract talent.

"LG U+ has a dream to become a digital innovation platform company that leads changes in customers' daily lives," said Hwang. "To achieve this, we need AI technology to make customer experience a reality, and, above all, people who can make that technology bloom."

About the Author(s)

Nick Wood

Nick is a freelancer who has covered the global telecoms industry for more than 15 years. Areas of expertise include operator strategies; M&As; and emerging technologies, among others. As a freelancer, Nick has contributed news and features for many well-known industry publications. Before that, he wrote daily news and regular features as deputy editor of Total Telecom. He has a first-class honours degree in journalism from the University of Westminster.

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