BT and Toshiba build commercially available quantum secure metro network in London

Against the growing threat of quantum computing to the security of traditional networks, BT and Toshiba announced that the two companies will build and test a commercially available quantum secure metro network.

The all-new network will link the London Docklands, City and M4 Corridor locations, and provide secure data services using Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) and Post-Quantum Cryptography (PQC).

The new network, which is the world’s first commercial trial of a quantum network infrastructure, will be operated by BT, which will provide a range of quantum secure services, including high-bandwidth end-to-end encrypted links, delivered over the optical spectrum of Openreach. Access Filter Connect (OSA FC) solution for private fiber networks.

The QKD links will be delivered using a quantum network that includes both basic and access components, and will be integrated into BT’s existing grid management operations. Toshiba will provide the quantum key distribution hardware and key management software.

The pace of advancement of Quantum computers presents an increasing risk for standard encrypted key exchanges, authentication and digital signatures; some estimates suggest that quantum computer-activated security attacks are possible within 5 years and likely to occur within 10 years.

Securing encrypted traffic is an urgent issue today, as data that requires long-term security could be exposed to ‘store today, crack later’ attacks, in which key exchange and traffic encrypted are now stored and broken when a sufficiently powerful quantum computer is available. QKD-based security is unique because the key exchange is secure against any computer or mathematical advancement, so it is immune to any present or future attack by quantum computers.

While BT and Toshiba have already installed a point-to-point quantum security link between two business sites, deploying a fully quantum secure metro network environment with multiple endpoints requires new integration and management approaches. Building on BT and Toshiba’s point-to-point solution for the Bristol-based National Composites Center (NCC) and Modeling and Simulation Center (CFMS), this new network will expand the solution to serve multiple customers across a large area. metropolitan.

London is an ideal environment to deploy and test this technology thanks to the density of customers whose data is extremely sensitive and requires maximum security, such as financial and legal institutions. The initial goal of the two companies will be to provide trials to corporate clients that carry sensitive traffic (such as database backups) between sites, and to explore potential future offerings such as encrypted links and “keys”. quantum as a service ”.

Toshiba launched commercial products for QKD, manufactured at its Cambridge site, in the second half of 2020. These offer the highest key rates (1000 keys per second) and longest range of any QKD system at commercially available optical fiber.

Toshiba’s innovative multiplexing compatibility allows data and quantum keys to be transmitted over the same fiber, eliminating the need for expensive dedicated infrastructure for key distribution. Toshiba will also provide network key management and distribution software that provides end-to-end data protection across the network.

Howard Watson, CTO of BT, said: “BT and Toshiba have established global leadership in the development of secure quantum networks. We are excited to take this collaboration to the next level by building the world’s first commercially operational secure quantum metro network in London. Secure, robust and reliable data transfer is increasingly crucial for our customers around the world, so we are proud of the role our Quantum R&D program is playing in making global networks more secure as we move into the future. dawn of a new era of quantum computing. “

Taro Shimada, Corporate Senior Vice President and Chief Digital Officer at Toshiba Corporation, said: “Our partnership with BT will enable us to provide organizations with quantum secure network services that protect their data against retrospective attacks with a quantum computer. We are delighted to be working with BT, with a long tradition of providing secure and reliable networks. This network paves the way for QKD commercial services in the UK and possibly beyond. “

BT has led the industry in the development of QKD networks, techniques and applications. In 2017, he conducted his first field test of QKD integrated into a secure optical communication network. In 2018-19, he conducted a second QKD test on a live network between Cambridge and its Adastral Park R&D campus in Ipswich, at that time the longest link in the UK quantum network. Last year, BT conducted customer trials with QKD’s NCC over 10G Ethernet.

In addition to working with BT last year on the installation of the UK’s first secure industrial quantum network, which transmits data between the NCC and CFMS, Toshiba has achieved many milestones thanks to its extensive research into the technology. quantum in his Cambridge research lab.

More recently, in June 2021, the company announced the first demonstration of its long-haul Twin Field QKD system over optical fibers exceeding 600 km, using its pioneering dual-band stabilization technique.

The combination of multiplexed QKD using existing infrastructure for metro networks, alongside conventional QKD and Twin Field for longer distances, paves the way for a commercially viable secure quantum network in the UK.

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