It could herald the start of a new era of ultrasecure communications that can never be hacked.
China has held the world’s first quantum intercontinental video conference between laboratories in Beijing and Vienna.
The call was held using a new world first space-ground quantum communication network that experts say could revolutionise how humans connect.
Quantum messaging represents the safest possible form of communication we can achieve because it is unhackable.
Traditional public key cryptography, used in most modern internet communications including emails, usually relies on the perceived computational intractability of certain mathematical functions.
In contrast, quantum key distribution (QKD) uses single photons in quantum superposition states to guarantee unconditional security between distant parties.
The call was held between President Chunli Bai of Beijing’s Chinese Academy of Sciences and President Anton Zeilinger of Vienna’s Austria Academy of Sciences.
The Chinese science academy said the encrypted communication system was being trialled for potential ‘real-world applications by government, banks, securities and insurance companies’.
There are plans to carry out similar test conversations between someone in China and four other places, Singapore, Italy, Germany and Russia.
Technical reasons had previously limited such conversations to distances of a few hundred kilometres, the academy said, but they had found a ‘promising solution to this problem’ involving a ‘sophisticated satellite, named Micius’.
It is equipped with ‘a decoy-state QKD transmitter, an entangled-photon source, and a quantum teleportation receiver and analyser’.
Five ground stations have also been built in China and Tibet.
Earlier this year scientists in China successfully transmitted entangled photons farther than ever before, achieving a distance of up to 1,400 kilometers (870 miles) between suborbital space and Earth.
Using the same ‘quantum satellite’ Micius, the scientists were able to to transmit a photon from an entangled pair from the ground station in Tibet to the orbiting craft, in what’s known as an uplink configuration.
The 1,300 pound craft satellite is equipped with a laser beam, which the scientists subjected to a beam splitter.
This gave the beam two distinct polarized states.
In the uplink approach, the transmitter is located at the ground station, while the satellite acts as the receiver.
Not only did the team successfully transmit single-photon qubits over hundreds of miles for the first time, but they managed to do it for six input states, to ‘demonstrate that the quantum teleportation is universal.’