Designing a Quantum Network Protocol


The second quantum revolution brings with it the promise of a quantum internet. As the first quantum network hardware prototypes near completion new challenges emerge. A functional network is more than just the physical hardware, yet work on scalable quantum network systems is in its infancy. In this paper we present a quantum network protocol designed to enable end-to-end quantum communication in the face of the new fundamental and technical challenges brought by quantum mechanics. We develop a quantum data plane protocol that enables end-to-end quantum communication and can serve as a building block for more complex services. One of the key challenges in near-term quantum technology is decoherence — the gradual decay of quantum information — which imposes extremely stringent limits on storage times. Our protocol is designed to be efficient in the face of short quantum memory lifetimes. We demonstrate this using a simulator for quantum networks and show that the protocol is able to deliver its service even in the face of significant losses due to decoherence. Finally, we conclude by showing that the protocol remains functional on the extremely resource limited hardware that is being developed today underlining the timeliness of this work.