AWS adds to its quantum family with quantum networking initiative

Amazon has quickly become a major force in the world of quantum technology, going toe-to-toe with the efforts of other technology giants like Microsoft, Google and IBM. Now, two years after Amazon Web Services launched general availability of its Braket cloud-based quantum computing service, the company is aiming to tackle the next phase of the quantum evolution–the development of quantum networks and, eventually, a quantum internet.

Key to this effort is this week’s launch of the Amazon Web Services Center for Quantum Networking (CQN), which the company said will focused on the long-term work of developing and testing hardware technology, such a quantum repeaters and transducers, that will need to be integrated with modern networking technology, such as fiber and optical transmission, to create long-range networks capable of connecting multiple quantum computing devices and harnessing their collective power.

As an AWS blog post announcing the CQN put it, “Quantum networks will leverage some technologies already deployed for modern optical communications, such as lasers, fibers, and detectors. However, instead of strong laser beams, quantum networks require single photons—smallest building blocks of light—to connect quantum devices together. Single photons enable many of the special capabilities of quantum networks, and simultaneously pose the great challenge: quantum mechanics prohibits their amplification, limiting the network range. Also, the weakness of single photons complicates interfacing them with today’s quantum computing devices. This means that special new technologies, such as quantum repeaters and transducers, will need to be developed in order to implement global quantum networks.”

In an email, Antia Lamas-Linares, Principal Research Scientist, Quantum Computing at AWS, declined to say whether Amazon will produce its own quantum repeaters or build its own quantum key distribution network for exchanging quantum-encrypted communications, as some companies have begun to do, saying it is too early in the technology evolution to address those questions.

“I can share with you that the AWS Center for Quantum Networking will be working directly on quantum hardware relevant to solving the main challenge in the field: how to build a scalable, commercial quantum network,” Lamas-Linares said. “Our customers may benefit from the range of potential applications of quantum networking, including additional layers of security and privacy, and versatile and secure access to cloud-based quantum computers, to name a few.”

The creation of the CQN follows the company’s other quantum ventures–not only the Amazon Braket cloud quantum computing service, but also the AWS Quantum Solutions Lab and the AWS Center for Quantum Computing. 

An AWS spokesman described the Braket and the Quantum Solutions Lab of those as being focused on the “near term,” while the Center for Quantum Computing and the new CQN are more focused on addressing the “long term” challenges of the quantum evolution.

This move by Amazon comes as development work on quantum networking and expectations for what it can deliver are ramping up around the world. IQT Research just released a report, “Opportunities in Quantum Networks: 2022 to 2031” that forecasted that revenue from such networks could reach $1.5 billion by 2027 and almost $8 billion by 2031.

Dan O’Shea also is an editorial contributor to the news section of Inside Quantum Technology, which owns IQT Research.