An EU-backed consortium said this week it now has a blueprint for quantum network architecture that will secure the bloc’s critical communications infrastructure.
The group, which includes Deutsche Telekom, Telefónica, defense giant Thales and its satellite arm Thales Alenia Space, and the Austrian Institute of Technology (AIT), has been conducting a study since April with the aim of determining how to make all this quantum the security stuff works.
This month, this consortium known as QSAFE (Quantum Network System Architecture for Europe) delivered the intermediate results of this study, laying the foundations for the implementation of the European Quantum Communication Infrastructure (EuroQCI).
“The study will serve the European Commission as a basis for the next steps in the journey towards establishing a European quantum communication infrastructure,” Deutsche Telekom said in a statement. “All aspects – costs, security, technology, network sizing, planning, operational model, etc. – are included in the study.”
The next step in the process is to flesh out the design, bringing it closer to real-world deployment.
There is an unofficial arms race going on in quantum computing. On the one hand, there are very smart people working hard to create working quantum computers, which will have orders of magnitude more processing power than current binary computers. Sounds great, but it poses a problem for the security industry, because a working quantum computer would easily be able to crack current encryption methods. As a result, there are also very smart people working hard on quantum cryptography technology, with the aim of securing communication networks in the age of quantum computing.
These technologies include quantum key distribution (QKD), which allows communicating parties to generate and share a secret random key. Any nefarious attempt to intercept this key introduces easily detectable anomalies into the system, disrupting communication and rendering the attack ineffective. QKD is at the heart of the QSAFE consortium’s studies on the security of quantum networks.
Quantum security promises to be big business. According to a joint report released in November by analyst firm Quantum Insider and cybersecurity firm Quantum Safe, spending on quantum security is expected to reach $3.5 billion per year by 2024. They project that figure could reach $30 billion by 2030.
However, the EU does not intend to wait until then. It wants its EuroQCI to be fully operational by 2027. It will consist of a terrestrial element, as well as a satellite element – hence the involvement of Thales Alenia Space in the QSAFE consortium.
“EuroQCI will protect sensitive data and critical infrastructure by integrating quantum systems into existing communication infrastructures, providing an additional layer of security based on quantum physics. It will strengthen the protection of European government institutions, their data centres, hospitals, energy networks, etc., becoming one of the main pillars of the EU’s new cybersecurity strategy for the decades to come. European.
Of course, the coordination of 27 Member States can sometimes feel a bit like a gathering of cats, which could lead to delays in implementation. In anticipation of this, in 2022-2023, part of the EU’s Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) will go to funding cross-border links between national quantum communication networks, as well as links between earth and EuroQCI spaces. With quantum computing milestones one after the other, the race to deploy quantum network security is well underway.