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BT and Toshiba Demo Secure UK Quantum Communications

Thursday, October 13th, 2016 (10:39 am) - Score 828
fibre optic cables on pcb circuit board

Telecoms giant BT and Japanese electronics firm Toshiba have today teamed-up to demonstrate the future of secure data communication via quantum cryptography, which works by delivering secret keys over fibre optic cables via the “smallest possible packets of light.”

The ability to harness the smallest elements of matter and energy for commercial cryptography purposes is something that has long been proposed, although only recently have humans had the engineering skill, knowledge and technology to start harnessing its potential benefits.

Admittedly there’s still a long way to go, but one highly desired benefit could be the ability to create a theoretically unbreakable method of secure communications via quantum cryptography. Not only would this be incredibly secure, but you could also detect eavesdroppers on a line because any attempt to monitor the data being transferred will disturb the photons sending the keys.

On that front the two companies have opened a new showcase of their related work to develop quantum communications at BT’s R&D centre in Ipswich. The idea is that this could initially be used to make bank / financial transfers, government communications and or other information exchanges much more secure than they are today.

Professor Tim Whitley, BT’s Head of Research, said:

“We’ve been conducting research into quantum cryptography for several years now so this is a great step forward in demonstrating how our research can benefit businesses. Businesses and organisations today face a tide of ever increasing and highly sophisticated attacks from cyber criminals so ensuring the secure transfer of critical data is more important than ever.

We’re confident that quantum cryptography will play an increasingly important role in helping companies guarantee that their secure communications remain water-tight in the future.”

Dr. Shiro Saito, Toshiba’s GM of the Technology, said:

“Toshiba is already applying quantum cryptography to secure transmission of genome data in Japan, since protecting personal medical information is one of the promising application fields.

Showing our secure communication system in BT’s customer showcase will enable us to demonstrate how quantum technology can enhance a wider range of businesses. We look forward to working with BT over the coming months to gather useful feedback and address the security requirements and concerns of BT customers.”

Apparently BT and Toshiba’s system uses quantum cryptography to form “digital crypto keys between the two points“, which can be used to encrypt and authenticate each piece of confidential data flowing between two sites. The quantum signals used to form the secret keys can also be sent along the same fibre optic cable as the bank data, which cuts the infrastructure costs.

BT claims that both companies have already achieved success in using quantum cryptography on “lit” installed fibre carrying 10Gbps data signals for the first time. More recently they found quantum key distribution and 100Gbps data can be combined on the same fibre.

On top of that both companies are working to build a Quantum Communication network (the “UK Quantum Network“) as part of the £270m Quantum Technology Programme. This aims to facilitate secure quantum communications between Cambridge, Bristol, London and Adastral Park. A link connecting BT’s Labs at Adastral Park and the Cambridge Science Park is expected to be completed during early 2017.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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6 Responses
  1. Avatar Sledgehammer

    Will it work with any copper lines in the setup?

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