Quantum radio receiver being trialled by BT to boost 5G and IoT

BT is trialling a hyper-sensitive quantum Atomic Radio Frequency (RF) receiver, to boost next generation 5G & IoT networks

The quantum antenna technology uses ‘excited atoms’, predicted to deliver over 100x greater sensitivity than traditional receivers, with the potential to close the rural connectivity gap across the UK.

A quantum effect called “electromagnetically induced transparency” is utilised to form a highly sensitive electric field detector, which could boost the capability of next-gen 5G and IoT.

If successful, mobile network energy consumption may be reduced, enabling IoT devices to become more cost efficient and longer lasting, as well as supporting lower-cost smart cities and smart agriculture.

Theoretically over 100x more sensitive than traditional receivers, the atomic RF Receiver can be positioned in traditionally hard-to-reach locations, potentially bringing mobile networks closer to achieving 100% coverage nationally.

BT’s trial represents the first time a digitally-encoded message has been received on a 3.6GHz (5G) carrier frequency.

Previously, simple audio has been received using much higher frequencies, but this initiative provides an industrial demonstration using digital modulation within one of partner EE’s main commercial 5G frequency ranges.

In future, BT researchers want the emerging infrastructure to form the basis of ultra-sensitive 5G receivers for use in very low power passive mobile networks.

“BT’s investment in cutting edge R&D plays a central role in ensuring the UK remains a network technology leader,” said Howard Watson, CTO of BT.

“Our programme has huge potential to boost the performance of our next generation EE network and deliver an even better service to our customers.

“Although it’s early days for the technology, we’re proud to be playing an instrumental role in developing cutting edge science.”

Earlier this year, BT also had its first external publication on its atomic RF Receivers accepted for publication in the Journal of Lightwave Technology.

BT announced the confirmation of a commercial partnership with EE last month.


Organisations expect commercial quantum application in coming years — Capgemini — Capgemini research has revealed that organisations are increasing investment and exploration in quantum technologies, with 23% expecting their first commercial applications in three to five years.

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Aaron Hurst

Aaron Hurst is Information Age's senior reporter, providing news and features around the hottest trends across the tech industry.