China on Tuesday launched the world’s first quantum communications satellite, named Quantum Experiments at Space Scale (QUESS). Promising the most secure type of communication currently known, the mission, strongly supported by the central government, is also backed by tech giants including Lenovo and Huawei.
QUESS is part of the project on quantum communications, which could prove to be invulnerable to eavesdropping. Aside from the fact that quantum technology has been listed as an R&D focus in China’s 13th Five-Year Plan, a dozen of listed companies have invested in the field of quantum communications – a market that is estimated to worth RMB 50 billion (USD 7.54 billion) in five years, according to Sina Tech.
Among the few Chinese companies that are currently capable of manufacturing core products in quantum communications is QuantumCTek. The company was founded in 2009 and enjoyed an annual net profit of RMB 50 million in 2015, Chinese media National Business Daily reported.
Pan Jianwei, the chief scientist of the quantum satellite project, is also a founder and shareholder of QuantumCTek. Started by the University of Science and Technology of China (USTC), the company is China’s first and biggest provider of multi-protocol network security products and services based on quantum technology and has over 100 patents.
In addition, QuantumCTek has been working with Alibaba since last December, with Alibaba Cloud becoming the world’s first cloud service provider offering quantum communications products.
According to NetEase Tech, apart from the 18.18% shares held by Pan, QuantumCTek’s other shareholders include state-owned entities, such as the Chinese Academy of Sciences with 7.6% of shares, and USTC with 18%. Lenovo’s controlling shareholder Legend Holdings, Huawei Investment and Holding, and Gopher Asset Management are also behind the scenes.
Huawei has been working on its massive layout of a global 4G network. 2013 data from the Global Mobile Suppliers Association (GSA) shows that, among the 213 commercial 4G networks that spread across 81 countries, Huawei has covered 100 of them. In addition, the company started its R&D on 5G technology in 2009, and plans to invest USD 600 million by 2018 in relevant research.
Leading the 4G commercial mode and 5G innovations in China, Huawei has now taken an early step in quantum communications, something which will serve industries like energy and finance, as well as the government.
State press agency Xinhua News reported that China expects quantum communications to be globalized by 2030. In that light, it is understandable that tech giants must lose no second to keep up with “the next big thing”.
(Top photo from Baidu Images)