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Verizon reveals quantum networking trials

The technology would help secure the network.

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IBM's quantum computer.

James Martin/CNET

Verizon is expanding a test of quantum computing technology that the carrier believes could help secure its networks. A pilot project of a technology called quantum key distribution in Washington DC was successful, so Verizon it will now test it across the US.

Quantum computing could solve some computing problems impossible for conventional machines, the most famous being an ability to crack conventional encryption, at least if engineers can make quantum computers vastly more powerful than today's research projects. But Verizon is exploring a different way that the physics of the ultrasmall could be useful -- protecting those encrypted network connections.

Quantum key distribution a more mature technology than quantum computing, lets two parties share the encryption keys used to secure their communications. A key element of the technology is the ability to detect if somebody else is trying to get access, too.

"Quantum-based technology can strengthen data security today and in the future," said Nicki Palmer, chief product innovation officer at Verizon.

Verizon's trial involved encrypting and delivering video streams in real time between two locations. Quantum keys were created and exchanged over a fiber network where Verizon said hackers can be "instantly detected."

Read more: Verizon vs. AT&T vs. T-Mobile compared: How to pick the best 5G carrier for you

"A QKD network derives cryptographic keys using the quantum properties of photons to prevent against eavesdropping," Verizon said. It's also using a quantum random number generator to continuously generate encryption keys.

AT&T is also working on the experimental quantum networking technology.