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BT UK Trial End-to-End Quantum-Secured Fibre Comms for 5G

Tuesday, November 17th, 2020 (3:25 pm) - Score 3,912
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Telecoms giant BT (EE) and Cambridge spin-out Nu-Quantum today claim to have launched a “world-first trial” of end-to-end quantum-secured communications for the new generation of ultrafast 5G mobile (mobile broadband) networks, which is being called AIRQKD (Air Quantum Key Distribution).

Quantum secure links are often said to be virtually “un-hackable” because they rely on the use of single particles of light (photons) to transmit special data encryption “keys” (QKD – Quantum Key Distribution). Should this communication be intercepted, the sender will be able to tell that the link has been tampered with and the stolen photons cannot then be used as part of the key, thus rendering the data stream incomprehensible to a hacker.

Last month BT and Toshiba succeeded in establishing the UK’s first “industrial deployment” of a quantum-secure network using Openreach’s “standard” fibre optic infrastructure (here). The key rate of the QKD system ran at just 1.1Mbps (each encryption key has a length of 256 bits), while the encrypted data link itself was running at 10Gbps (it can go to several hundred gigabits and at distances of up to 120km).

Meanwhile the new trial, which will run for 36-months, is being funded by an investment of £7.7m from the Quantum Technologies Challenge, led by UK Research and Innovation. BT claims it will be the first to combine QKD over fixed fibre and free-space networks (point-to-point laser connections between cell sites), with quantum-enhanced security chips in mobile devices.

Apparently, both will be used to deliver an ultra-secure link between connected 5G towers and mobile devices, as well as to connected cars, in conjunction with the Warwick Manufacturing Group at Warwick University.

Professor Andrew Lord, BT’s Head of Optical Network Research, said:

“The UK has firmly established itself as a global leader in quantum-based network security. With the AIRQKD trial, we’re delighted to be taking this to the next level and combining multiple quantum technologies from innovative UK start-ups to build the world’s most secure fixed-mobile communications link. Connected cars are only one of the possible range of applications that will benefit from such ultra-secure connectivity in the future.”

Dr Carmen Palacios Berraquero, co-founder and CEO of Nu Quantum, said:

“In this project, we are basically creating the architecture for a whole new quantum-telecommunication industry, with a supply chain running from component manufacture through to end user. At Nu Quantum we have the unique ability to use the smallest packets of light, making the most of quantum mechanics and the security advantage it can give us. This 3-year partnership with BT and others across the UK is an important step taking quantum out of the lab and into our networks.”

The AIRQKD project involves the following partners: BT, Lexden Technologies, OLC, Duality, Bristol University, Fraunhofer Centre for Applied Photonics, Strathclyde University, Warwick University Manufacturing Group, Bay Photonics, Heriot Watt University, Angoka, ArQit, Nu Quantum, National Physical Laboratory, CSA Catapult, Edinburgh University.

Leave a Comment
4 Responses
  1. Avatar Colin Moreland says:

    What would the cheapest house hold tariffs be for brechin in scotland , thanks

  2. Avatar Steve Spearey says:

    No 5G, no fibre, slow ADSL, no plans from any providers. So I guess as far as my house is concerned. It’s those that have, shall have faster. And those that have slow shall keep it.
    Nothing of interest – move on!

  3. Avatar Buggerlugz says:

    Funny how home broadband in the UK has so many homes with “decent” broadband speeds and so many with terrible speeds isn’t it? It’ll eventually reach the point where it becomes a case of “the haves” and “the have nots” in this country.

  4. Avatar AnonyMouse says:

    I have noticed something interesting. Here in Surrey all the houses that vote Tories (private, tacked away in countryside) had VDSL for some time now and the deprived areas ware last to get cabinet upgrades. Why did Openreach stopped sticking thous stickers on them “Fiber has arrived here” … when it did finally arrived?

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