The network will link sites in London’s Docklands, the City, and the M4 Corridor, using quantum security technology to protect sensitive traffic
Quantum computing is a highly complex and esoteric topic, the impacts of which many industries, including the telecoms sector, are struggling to come to terms with.
Perhaps the technology’s greatest impact will be felt when it comes to network security, with quantum computing potentially able to overcome traditional data encryption methods. According to BT, some estimates predict that quantum computer-enabled cyber-attacks will be possible within the next five years and likely within the next ten.
But while quantum computing potentially represents a threat to network security, it also provides a solution.
Now, BT and Toshiba have announced they are working together to build and trial the world’s first commercially available quantum-secured metro network. Connecting sites situated in London’s Docklands, the City and the M4 Corridor, the network will be secured using Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) and Post-Quantum Cryptography (PQC) technology.
The network will be operated by BT over Openreach’s Optical Spectrum Access Filter Connect solution for private fibre networks, with Toshiba providing the QKD hardware and related software.
Part of the problem presented with network security today is that malicious actors can potentially follow a “store today, crack later” approach, whereby they steal and store encrypted data on a massive scale and simply wait for quantum computing technology to advance to a sufficient level to break the encryption.
QKD, however, overcomes this problem since its security properties are based on the laws of quantum mechanics rather than the difficulty of cracking a mathematical problem. In short, the QKD protocol works by sharing a random, secret key between two parties. However, due to the nature of a quantum system, these keys cannot be observed or tampered with by third parties without changing the system itself, thereby alerting the sender and receiver that the data transfer is insecure and aborting the task.
“Our partnership with BT will allow us to offer organisations quantum-secured network services which protect their data from retrospective attacks with a quantum computer. We are delighted to work with BT, with its long heritage of delivering secure, trusted networks. This network paves the way for commercial QKD services in the UK and eventually beyond,” said Taro Shimada, Corporate Senior Vice President and Chief Digital Officer at Toshiba Corporation.
In a previous partnership, BT and Toshiba had already installed a point-to-point quantum-secure link between two commercial sites, the National Composites Centre and the Centre for Modelling and Simulation, both situated in Bristol. Toshiba first launched commercial QKD products last year.
BT is not the only telco exploring the use of quantum technology for security purposes. In the last two years, Deutsche Telekom, TIM and Telefonica have all made announcements related to quantum computing and security.
Are telcos going enough to secure their networks? Find out all of the latest network security measures from the operators themselves at this year’s Total Telecom Congress