The Quantum Internet will bring new communication and remote computation
capabilities such as quantum secure communication, distributed quantum
computing, and quantum-enhanced physical sensor systems. A key focus
area for quantum networks will be cryptographic functions such as quantum
key distribution or quantum byzantine agreement.
Work towards a Quantum Internet is well underway in physics laboratories
and in theory groups. The next step is network engineering. Being
embedded within the IRTF community helps in achieving this goal in two
The IRTF community has extensive experience in network engineering.
Whilst quantum networks operate on a completely new set of physical
principles, many lessons have been learned throughout the Internet’s
history and many of them will be relevant to the development of the
Quantum networks will be embedded within non-quantum (classical)
networks, as they require classical connectivity for control and
management purposes. Thus, the IRTF’s experience in classical network
design and architecture will be beneficial.
Overall the goal of the QIRG is to address the question of how to design
and build quantum networks. Some of the problems that need to be
Routing: Finding an optimal path in a quantum network is a non-trivial
problem due to the requirement of achieving a certain fidelity
threshold and the low coherence time of quantum memories. There are a
number of proposals and which routing schemes are appropriate for which
circumstances needs to be assessed.
Resource allocation: All networks have a finite pool of resources, and
quantum networks bring new resource considerations to the table, such
as the coherence time of quantum memories. Some of the routing
proposals already include a notion of dynamic traffic in the network,
but it is worth making a distinction.
Connection establishment: Quantum networks deliver entangled states
instead of packets so the connection semantics may be different. How
does such a request look like as it propagates across the network?
Interoperability: Different networks based on different hardware (ion
traps, atomic ensembles, nitrogen vacancy centres) and using different
protocols are currently being designed and built. How do we ensure a
long-lived internetwork develops?
Security: Quantum networks bring enhanced security for applications.
Therefore, the question of the security of the network itself must also
be addressed. Are quantum repeater networks inherently more or less
vulnerable in operations than classical networks?
API design: Classical sockets are built around the concept of bits.
What should an API for entangled states look like given new
considerations such as fidelity, and the low coherence time of quantum
Some other problems that can be tackled by the QIRG:
Applications for a Quantum Internet: an important item on the agenda
for the community is analyzing how to turn the low-level, abstract
functions of quantum communication into services provided by the
Quantum Internet, including establishing required data rates and
fidelities, with specific use cases incorporating quantum services into
complete information systems.
Multi-party states and multi-party transfers such as network coding:
rather than simple, independent point-to-point transfers, how can we
create and use more complex states?
Outputs and Milestones
Concrete work items that QIRG may produce include:
An architectural framework delineating network node roles and
definitions, to build a common vocabulary and serve as the first step
toward a quantum network architecture.
Wehner, Elkhouss and Hanson have created a roadmap of technical
capability milestones for quantum networks. Mapping these milestones
to concrete use cases will help to determine the order and timing of
classical protocols that will be needed. For example, consider
prepare-and-measure networks; what data rates, fidelities are needed to
e.g. make a useful position verification service, and how would you
incorporate that into a complete information system?
Finally, QIRG will serve as a coordination point with other standards
organizations that are working on standardization of quantum networks.
QIRG will hold 2-3 meetings per year, online or in person, in accordance
with current best practice.
Membership Policy: Open