In a groundbreaking development following recent quantum communication demonstrations using undersea fiber optics, scientists from Russia and China have achieved a significant milestone by successfully demonstrating quantum communication over satellite. The test utilized China’s quantum satellite, known as “Mozi,” marking a collaborative effort to establish advanced encrypted communication networks that are shielded from external scrutiny, potentially benefiting BRICS-aligned countries.

The successful experiment was conducted from a ground station near Moscow, Russia, to another station close to Urumqi, China, covering a distance of over 3,800 kilometers, as reported by the South China Morning Post.

The key player in this achievement, the quantum satellite Mozi (or Micius), has been in orbit since 2016 under the management of the Chinese Academy of Science. The collaboration between Chinese and Russian scientists began in 2020, leading to a full quantum communication experiment in March 2023. During this test, encryption keys from Mozi were employed to distribute two coded messages. The coded messages included a quote from Chinese philosopher Mozi and an equation from Soviet physicist Lev Landau.

A more recent “full cycle” quantum communication test on December 14, 2023, involved the transmission of a few quantum key-encoded images, further advancing the practical applications of quantum communication.

Quantum communication utilizes qubits, which, like traditional bits, can contain binary information. However, qubits are highly susceptible to external interference, making it easier to detect any interception or tampering. In theory, quantum communications are considered the most secure form of data transmission, exploiting quantum mechanics to be unbreakable without detection.

Despite the limitations of quantum computing adoption and current qubit transmission technologies, recent advancements, such as satellite-based communication with a range of 3,800 kilometers, bring us closer to the prospect of quantum communication networks. Traditional data transmission faces challenges with quantum bits due to their fragility and susceptibility to degradation, making quantum communication a promising alternative.

While the recent communication test involved static images, the feasibility of real-time video calling remains uncertain. A voice calling test conducted in 2017 between China and Austria suggests the potential for high-bandwidth quantum communication in the future.

Though achieving quantum communication via undersea fiber optics and satellite is impressive, widespread adoption in consumer, business, or state communication is not expected in the near future. Quantum computing’s rapid development may bring unforeseen possibilities, but for now, quantum communication networks appear most suited for scientific research.

Alexey Fedorov from Russia’s National University of Science and Technology and the Russian Quantum Center acknowledges the diverse uses of quantum communication networks but emphasizes their current suitability for scientific research. While large-scale utilization may take time, Fedorov expresses interest from the Russian finance sector and hints at the potential establishment of a quantum communication network among BRICS nations in the future.

By Impact Lab