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IBM opens Quantum Computing

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IBM Research has announced that for the first time ever it is making quantum computing available to members of the public, who can access and run experiments on IBM’s quantum processor.

IBM scientists have built a quantum processor that users can access through a first-of-a-kind quantum computing platform delivered via the IBM Cloud onto any desktop or mobile device. IBM believes quantum computing is the future of computing and has the potential to solve certain problems that are impossible to solve on today’s supercomputers.

The cloud-enabled quantum computing platform, called IBM Quantum Experience, will allow users to run algorithms and experiments on IBM’s quantum processor, work with the individual quantum bits (qubits), and explore tutorials and simulations around what might be possible with quantum computing.

The quantum processor is composed of five superconducting qubits and is housed at the IBM T.J. Watson Research Center in New York. The five-qubit processor represents the latest advancement in IBM’s quantum architecture that can scale to larger quantum systems. It is the leading approach towards building a universal quantum computer.

A universal quantum computer can be programmed to perform any computing task and will be exponentially faster than classical computers for a number of important applications for science and business.

A universal quantum computer does not exist today, but IBM envisions medium-sized quantum processors of 50-100 qubits to be possible in the next decade. With a quantum computer built of just 50 qubits, none of today’s TOP500 supercomputers could successfully emulate it, reflecting the tremendous potential of this technology. The community of quantum computer scientists and theorists is working to harness this power, and applications in optimization and chemistry will likely be the first to demonstrate quantum speed-up.

“Quantum computers are very different from today’s computers, not only in what they look like and are made of, but more importantly in what they can do. Quantum computing is becoming a reality and it will extend computation far beyond what is imaginable with today’s computers,” said Arvind Krishna, senior vice president and director, IBM Research. “This moment represents the birth of quantum cloud computing. By giving hands-on access to IBM’s experimental quantum systems, the IBM Quantum Experience will make it easier for researchers and the scientific community to accelerate innovations in the quantum field, and help discover new applications for this technology.”

With Moore’s Law running out of steam, quantum computing will be among the technologies that could usher in a new era of innovation across industries. This leap forward in computing could lead to the discovery of new pharmaceutical drugs and completely safeguard cloud computing systems. It could also unlock new facets of artificial intelligence (which could lead to future, more powerful Watson technologies), develop new materials science to transform industries, and search large volumes of big data.

IBM Quantum Experience

Quantum information is very fragile and needs to be protected from any errors that can result from heat and electromagnetic radiation. Signals are sent in and out of a cryogenic dilution refrigerator to measure operations on the quantum processor.

The IBM team has made a number of robust engineering advances both at the device level and in the electronic controls to give IBM Quantum Experience users unprecedented and reliably high-quality performance in this five-qubit processor.

Coupled with software expertise from the IBM Research ecosystem, the team has built a dynamic user interface on the IBM Cloud platform that allows users to easily connect to the quantum hardware via the cloud. The team sees the introduction to the public of this complete quantum computing framework as just the start of a new user community, which embraces the quantum world and how it works.

In the future, users will have the opportunity to contribute and review their results in the community hosted on the IBM Quantum Experience and IBM scientists will be directly engaged to offer more research and insights on new advances. IBM plans to add more qubits and different processor arrangements to the IBM Quantum Experience over time, so users can expand their experiments and help uncover new applications for the technology.

Quantum computing – a different way of thinking

We live in a world where classical physics defines our experiences and our intuition, and ultimately how we process information. However, nature at the atomic level is governed by a different set of rules known as quantum mechanics. It is beyond the reach of classical computers to solve problems that exist in nature in which quantum mechanics plays a role, for example, understanding how molecules behave.

To overcome this, in 1981, Richard Feynman proposed to build computers based on the laws of quantum mechanics. Over three decades later, IBM is helping to make this a reality.

Quantum computing works fundamentally differently from today’s computers. A classical computer makes use of bits to process information, where each bit represents either a one or a zero. In contrast, a qubit can represent a one, a zero, or both at once, which is known as superposition. This property along with other quantum effects enable quantum computers to perform certain calculations vastly faster than is possible with classical computers.

Most of today’s quantum computing research in academia and industry is focused on building a universal quantum computer. The major challenges include creating qubits of high quality and packaging them together in a scalable way, so they can perform complex calculations in a controllable way.

IBM employs superconducting qubits that are made with superconducting metals on a silicon chip and can be designed and manufactured using standard silicon fabrication techniques. Last year, IBM scientists demonstrated critical breakthroughs to detect quantum errors by combining superconducting qubits in latticed arrangements, and whose quantum circuit design is the only physical architecture that can scale to larger dimensions.

Now, IBM scientists have achieved a further advance by combining five qubits in the lattice architecture, which demonstrates a key operation known as a parity measurement – the basis of many quantum error correction protocols. The road towards universal quantum computing hinges upon the achievement of quantum error correction, and the IBM team has taken another important step down this challenging path.

New frontiers for quantum computing

There has been tremendous progress and interest in the field of quantum of computing in recent years. By giving users access to the IBM Quantum Experience, it will help businesses and organizations begin to understand the technology’s potential, for universities to grow their teaching programs in quantum computing and related subjects, and for students to become aware of promising new career paths.

“It is a beautiful challenge to pursue the path to build the first universal quantum computer, but it requires us to change how we think about the world. Access to early quantum computing prototypes will be key in imagining and developing future applications,” said Dario Gil, vice president of science and solutions, IBM Research. “If you want to understand what a true quantum computer will do for you and how it works, this is the place to do it. You won’t experience it anywhere else.”

IBM’s quantum computing platform is a core initiative within the newly formed IBM Research Frontiers Institute. The Frontiers Institute is a consortium that develops and shares ground-breaking computing technologies to spur world-changing innovations. Companies from diverse industries can leverage IBM’s research talent and cutting-edge infrastructure to explore what the future of quantum computing may mean for their organization and business. Founding members of the Frontiers Institute include Samsung, JSR, and Honda.

To access the IBM Quantum Experience and for more information on IBM’s quantum computing research, please visit www.ibm.com/quantumcomputing. To learn more about the IBM Research Frontiers Institute, please visit www.ibm.com/frontiers.

Note to journalists and bloggers: You can view and download b-roll on IBM’s quantum computing efforts at http://www.thenewsmarket.com/ibm. The video is available in HD, standard definition broadcast and streaming quality.

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Rain, Telkom Mobile, lead in affordable data

A new report by the telecoms regulator in South Africa reveal the true consumer champions in mobile data costs

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The latest bi-annual tariff analysis report produced by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) reveals that Telkom Mobile data costs for bundles are two-thirds lower than those of Vodacom and MTN. On the other hand, Rain is half the price again of Telkom. 

The report focuses on the 163 tariff notifications lodged with ICASA during the period 1 July 2018 to 31 December 2018.

“It seeks to ensure that there is retail price transparency within the electronic communications sector, the purpose of which is to enable consumers to make an informed choice, in terms of tariff plan preferences and/or preferred service providers based on their different offerings,” said Icasa.

ICASA says it observed the competitiveness between licensees in terms of the number of promotions that were on offer in the market, with 31 promotions launched during the period. 

The report shows that MTN and Vodacom charge the same prices for a 1GB and a 3GB data bundle at R149 and R299 respectively.  On the other hand, Telkom Mobile charges (for similar-sized data bundles) R100 (1GB) and R201 (3GB). Cell C discontinued its 1GB bundle, which was replaced with a 1.5GB bundle offered at the same price as the replaced 1GB data bundle at R149. 

Rain’s “One Plan Package” prepaid mobile data offering of R50 for a 1GB bundle remains the most affordable when compared to the offers from other MNOs (Mobile Network Operators) and MVNOs (Mobile Virtual Network Operators).  

“This development should have a positive impact on customers’ pockets as they are paying less compared to similar data bundles and increases choice,” said Icasa.

The report also revealed that the cost of out-of-bundle data had halved at both MTN and Vodacom, from 99c per Megabyte a year ago to 49c per Megabyte in the first quarter of this year. This was still two thirds more expensive than Telkom Mobile, which has charged 29c per Megabyte throughout this period (see graph below).

Meanwhile, from having positioned itself as consumer champion in recent years, Cell C has fallen on hard times, image-wise: it is by far the most expensive mobile network for out-of-bundle data, at R1.10 per Megabyte. Its prices have not budged in the past year.

The report highlights the disparities between the haves and have-nots in the dramatically plummeting cost of data per Megabyte as one buys bigger and bigger bundles on a 30-day basis (see graph below).

For 20 Gigabyte bundles, all mobile operators are in effect charging 4c per Megabyte. Only at that level do costs come in at under Rain’s standard tariffs regardless of use.

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Qualcomm wins 5G as Apple and Intel cave in

A flurry of announcements from three major tech players ushered in a new mobile chip landscape, wrItes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

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Last week’s shock announcement by Intel that it was canning its 5G modem business leaves the American market wide open to Qualcomm, in the wake of the latter winning a bruising patent war with Apple.

Intel Corporation announced its intention to “exit the 5G smartphone modem business and complete an assessment of the opportunities for 4G and 5G modems in PCs, internet of things devices and other data-centric devices”.

Intel said it would also continue to invest in its 5G network infrastructure business, sharpening its focus on a market expected to be dominated by Huawei, Nokia and Ericsson.

Intel said it would continue to meet current customer commitments for its existing 4G smartphone modem product line, but did not expect to launch 5G modem products in the smartphone space, including those originally planned for launches in 2020. In other words, it would no longer be supplying chips for iPhones and iPads in competition with Qualcomm.

“We are very excited about the opportunity in 5G and the ‘cloudification’ of the network, but in the smartphone modem business it has become apparent that there is no clear path to profitability and positive returns,” said Intel CEO Bob Swan. “5G continues to be a strategic priority across Intel, and our team has developed a valuable portfolio of wireless products and intellectual property. We are assessing our options to realise the value we have created, including the opportunities in a wide variety of data-centric platforms and devices in a 5G world.”

The news came immediately after Qualcomm and Apple issued a joint announced of an agreement to dismiss all litigation between the two companies worldwide. The settlement includes a payment from Apple to Qualcomm, along with a six-year license agreement, and a multiyear chipset supply agreement.

Apple had previously accused Qualcomm of abusing its dominant position in modem chips for smartphones and charging excessive license fees. It ordered its contract manufacturers, first, to stop paying Qualcomm for the chips, and then to stop using the chips altogether, turning instead to Intel.
With Apple paying up and Intel pulling out, Qualcomm is suddenly in the pound seats. It shares hit their highest levels in five years after the announcements.

Qualcomm said in a statement: “As we lead the world to 5G, we envision this next big change in cellular technology spurring a new era of intelligent, connected devices and enabling new opportunities in connected cars, remote delivery of health care services, and the IoT — including smart cities, smart homes, and wearables. Qualcomm Incorporated includes our licensing business, QTL, and the vast majority of our patent portfolio.”

Meanwhile, Strategy Analytics released a report on the same day that showed Ericsson, Huawei and Nokia will lead the market in core 5G infrastructure, namely Radio Access Network (RAN) equipment, by 2023 as the 5G market takes off. Huawei is expected to have the edge as a result of the vast scale of the early 5G market in China and its long term steady investment in R&D. According to a report entitled “Comparison and 2023 5G Global Market Potential for leading 5G RAN Vendors – Ericsson, Huawei and Nokia”, two outliers, Samsung and ZTE, are expected to expand their global presence alongside emerging vendors as competition heats up.

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