Lower Bounds on Number of QAOA Rounds Required for Guaranteed Approximation Ratios

by   Naphan Benchasattabuse, et al.

The quantum alternating operator ansatz (QAOA) is a heuristic hybrid quantum-classical algorithm for finding high-quality approximate solutions to combinatorial optimization problems, such as Maximum Satisfiability. While QAOA is well-studied, theoretical results as to its runtime or approximation ratio guarantees are still relatively sparse. We provide some of the first lower bounds for the number of rounds (the dominant component of QAOA runtimes) required for QAOA. For our main result, (i) we leverage a connection between quantum annealing times and the angles of QAOA to derive a lower bound on the number of rounds of QAOA with respect to the guaranteed approximation ratio. We apply and calculate this bound with Grover-style mixing unitaries and (ii) show that this type of QAOA requires at least a polynomial number of rounds to guarantee any constant approximation ratios for most problems. We also (iii) show that the bound depends only on the statistical values of the objective functions, and when the problem can be modeled as a k-local Hamiltonian, can be easily estimated from the coefficients of the Hamiltonians. For the conventional transverse field mixer, (iv) our framework gives a trivial lower bound to all bounded occurrence local cost problems and all strictly k-local cost Hamiltonians matching known results that constant approximation ratio is obtainable with constant round QAOA for a few optimization problems from these classes. Using our novel proof framework, (v) we recover the Grover lower bound for unstructured search and – with small modification – show that our bound applies to any QAOA-style search protocol that starts in the ground state of the mixing unitaries.


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