BT tests quantum radio receivers that could boost 5G coverage

BT is testing a new “hypersensitive” quantum radio receiver that could boost the capabilities of 5G and Internet of Things (IoT) networks by reducing power consumption and increasing coverage.

The receivers use “excited atoms” to achieve 100 times greater sensitivity than conventional radio equipment through a quantum effect called “electromagnetically induced transparency” which forms a highly sensitive electric field detector.

Since atomic radio frequency (RF) receivers are more sensitive, they could be deployed in areas where it is not practical or cost effective to deploy mobile infrastructure. This would make nationwide 5G coverage a reality.

“Excited Atoms”

Meanwhile, lower power consumption would transform the economics of massive IoT projects that rely on long battery life.

The longer an IoT device can stay in the field without needing to be touched or replaced, the greater the return on investment.

BT engineers have successfully sent digitally encoded messages using the technology through EE’s 3.6 GHz spectrum. Using commercially licensed frequencies could speed up the real-world timeline for receiver use. Researchers are now working to miniaturize the equipment and find the optimal frequency modulation and signal processing for it to be used in the future.

“BT’s investment in cutting-edge R&D plays a central role in ensuring the UK remains a leader in network technologies,” said Howard Watson, BT’s Chief Technology Officer (CTO). “Our program has enormous potential to improve the performance of our next-generation EE network and provide even better service to our customers. Although the technology is still in its infancy, we are proud to play an instrumental role in the development of cutting-edge science.

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BT’s interest in quantum technology saw this and Toshiba built the world’s first quantum secure commercial metro network using standard fiber cables in London.

The UK government has expressed a desire to be at the forefront of the field, believing that quantum computing can play a vital role in the connected economy and accelerate Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) deployments. A National Quantum Computing Center (NQCC) is due to open in 2022 as part of the £1billion National Quantum Technologies Programme.

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