BT and Toshiba commercial trial of a ‘quantum-secured’ metro network

BT and Toshiba have launched what they say is the world’s first “commercial trial” of a quantum-secured metro network (QSMN).

The QSMN infrastructure will be able to connect numerous customers across London, helping them to secure the transmission of valuable data and information between multiple physical locations over standard fiber optic links using quantum key distribution (QKD).

QKD is an important technology, playing a fundamental role in protecting networks and data against the emerging threat of cyber-attack using quantum computing. The London network represents a critical step towards reaching the UK government’s strategy to become a quantum-enabled economy

The QSMN is a three-node London exchange fiber optic ring using commercially available QKD hardware from Toshiba. BT provided fiber connectivity and “quantum-enabled” local exchanges.

Source: BT

German based optical network vendor ADVA is also involved in the QSMN. For the dedicated QKD “access tails,” BT used a commercially available Optical Spectrum Access Filter Connect (OSA FC) solution from Openreach, the UK incumbent’s infrastructure arm. OSA FC was developed by ADVA.

Financial services firm EY, the network’s first commercial customer,  will use the network to connect two of its sites in London, one in Canary Wharf, and one near London Bridge. It will demonstrate how data secured using QKD can move between sites and will showcase the benefits this network brings to its own customers.

BT is working with EY (a non paying customer) and others that want to try QSMN to work out which types of QKD services will be in demand and how the business case might pan out.  That initiative will likely be done over a three-year period,

“It’s a commercial trial in the sense that it’s built on commercial kit,” Professor Tim Whitley, managing director at BT’s applied research division, told Light Reading.

“It’s also a commercial trial in the sense that, unlike many trials around, it is effectively integrated in and part of a national operator’s communications infrastructure. It is managed out of our national operations center at Adastral Park.”

BT and Toshiba announced their commitment to creating a trial network in October 2021. BT will operate the network, providing a range of quantum-secured services including dedicated high bandwidth end-to-end encrypted links, delivered over Openreach’s private fibre networks, while Toshiba will provide quantum key distribution hardware and key management software. In the network, QKD keys will be combined with the in-built ethernet security, based on public-key based encryption, which will enable the resultant keys to be used to encrypt the data.

Some recent QKD history:

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Howard Watson, CTO, BT stated: “Quantum-enabled technologies are expected to have a profound impact on how society and business operates in the future, but they are remarkably complex to understand, develop and build: in particular, ensuring that the end-to-end service designs meet the stringent security requirements of the market. I’m incredibly proud that BT and Toshiba have successfully united to deliver this unique network, and with EY as our first trial customer, we are paving the way for further commercial explorations for quantum technologies and their use in commercial, and societal applications in the future.”

Shunsuke Okada, Corporate Senior Vice President and Chief Digital Officer of Toshiba commented: “Both Toshiba and BT have demonstrated world-class technology development and leadership through decades of innovation and operation. Combining BT’s leadership in networks technologies and Toshiba’s leadership in quantum technologies has brought this network to life, allowing businesses across London to benefit from quantum secured communications for the first time.”

Preparation, technical deployment and testing for the network commenced in late 2021. This included equipment deployment in racks, adding security systems and resilience testing, and finally running and optimising the network. While Tuesday 26th April marked the official launch of the network, it has been running since early April, and will operate for an initial period of up to three years.

Praveen Shankar, EY UK & Ireland Managing Partner for Technology, Media and Telecoms (TMT), commented: “Quantum technology creates new and significant opportunities for business, but presents potential risks. Quantum secure data transmission represents the next major leap forward in protecting data, an essential component of doing business in a digital economy. Our work with two of the world’s leading technology innovators will allow us to demonstrate the power of quantum to both EY and our clients.”

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The UK Government’s “strategic intent” to develop a quantum-enabled economy was first published in 2020. It sets out a vision for the next 10 years in which quantum technologies will become an integral part of the UK’s digital backbone, unlock innovation to drive growth and help build a thriving and resilient economy, and contribute significant value to the UK’s prosperity and security.

The London network represents an important step to building a national network for quantum secured communications, which will stimulate the growth of a quantum ready economy in the UK.

Howard Watson continued: “This is a significant moment in the UK’s journey towards a quantum-enabled economy, but we’re not there yet. Further investment commitments will be required to broaden the study of quantum technologies that will contribute to this new economy, including quantum computing, quantum cryptography and quantum communications. We look forward to working with our government and industry partners to continue the momentum BT has started and shaping the UK’s quantum strategy.”

The technical collaboration for this network was conducted in BT’s Adastral Park labs in Suffolk, UK, and the Quantum technology Business Division of Toshiba, based in Tokyo, Japan and Cambridge, UK, where the quantum key distribution technology has been developed and is manufactured.

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References:

https://www.global.toshiba/ww/news/corporate/2022/04/news-20220427-01.html

https://www.lightreading.com/opticalip-networks/bt-toshiba-unveil-quantum-secured-metro-network/d/d-id/777084?

https://newsroom.bt.com/bt-and-toshiba-to-build-worlds-first-commercial-quantum-secured-metro-network-across-london/

Verizon Trials Quantum Key Distribution for Encryption over Fiber Optic Links

New ITU-T SG13 Recommendations related to IMT 2020 and Quantum Key Distribution

 

Verizon Trials Quantum Key Distribution for Encryption over Fiber Optic Links

Verizon has begun testing quantum key distribution (QKD) [1.], a new encryption method that uses photon properties to protect subscriber data. The company says they are the first U.S. carrier to do so, although AT&T is also exploring quantum computing applications in partnership with the California Institute of Technology.  Verizon  said it sent encrypted streaming video from a 5G Lab to two East Coast offices.

Note 1.  Unlike number-based encryption methods used today, QKD creates keys based on the quantum properties of photons, making it much harder for even advanced computing systems to crack.  QKD could be applied to exchange a key between the two ends of a communication. QKD provides protection against the threat posed by quantum computing to current cryptographic algorithms and provides a high level of security for the exchange of data.

An article by ITU-T SG13 chair Leo Lehmann, PhD, described new ITU-T Recommendations related to IMT 2020 and Quantum Key Distribution.   ITU-T SG13 has published two new recommendations for networks to support quantum key distribution (QKD) [1] :

  • Y.3800 (Y.QKDN_FR) Overview on networks supporting quantum key distribution
  • Y.3801 (Y.QKDN_req) Functional requirements for quantum key distribution networks

Y.3800 describes the basic conceptual structures of QKD networks as the first of a series of emerging ITU standards on network and security aspects of quantum information technologies. SG13 standards for QKD networks – networks of QKD devices and an overlay network – will enable the integration of QKD technology into large-scale ICT networks.

Complementing these activities, ITU-T SG17 standards provide recommendations for the security of these QKD networks.

Quantum Cryptography Demystified: How It Works in Plain Language - ExtremeTech

Image depicting Quantum Cryptography

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Verizon is exploring the physics of the ultra small which could help protect encrypted network connections.

“A QKD network derives cryptographic keys using the quantum properties of photons to prevent against eavesdropping,” Verizon said. It’s also using a quantum random number generator to continuously generate encryption keys.

In the trial, Verizon said it used QKD to encrypt and send a video stream between its 5G Lab and two of its offices in Virginia and Washington DC.  Specifically, live video was captured outside of three Verizon locations in the D.C. area, including the Washington DC Executive Briefing Center, the 5G Lab in D.C and Verizon’s Ashburn, Virginia office.

Using a QKD network, quantum keys were created and exchanged over a fiber optic network between Verizon’s locations.  Video streams were encrypted and delivered more securely allowing the recipient to see the video in real-time while instantly exposing hackers. A QKD network derives cryptographic keys using the quantum properties of photons to prevent against eavesdropping.

Though the test was conducted over its fiber network, a Verizon representative told Mobile World Live the operator is also aiming to use the technology in their mobile networks.

Verizon also demonstrated that data could be further secured with keys generated using a Quantum Random Number Generator (QRNG) that, as the name suggests, creates random numbers that can’t be predicted. With QKD, encryption keys are continuously generated and are immune to attacks because any disruption to the channel breaks the quantum state of photons, which signals that eavesdroppers are present.

“The use of quantum mechanics is a great step forward in data security,” said IDC Analyst Christina Richmond, in a statement. “Verizon’s own tests, as well other industry testing, have shown that deriving ‘secret keys’ between two entities via light photons effectively blocks perfect cloning by an eavesdropper if a key intercept is attempted.

“Current technological breakthroughs have proven that both the quantum channel and encrypted data channel can be sent over a single optical fiber. Verizon has demonstrated this streamlined approach brings greater efficiency for practical large-scale implementation allowing keys to be securely shared over wide-ranging networks.”

Verizon chief product development officer Nicola Palmer stated the test was part of an effort to “discover new ways to ensure safe networks and communications” for consumers and enterprises.  “Quantum-based technology can strengthen data security today and in the future,” she said.

Verizon outlined additional work focused on 5G security, including tests of a system using AI and machine learning to detect anomalies in the network and analyse cell site performance; network accelerators to mitigate increases in latency caused by security functions; and a credential management system for connected vehicles.

References:

https://www.cnet.com/news/verizon-reveals-quantum-networking-trials/

Verizon trials quantum security

https://www.fiercetelecom.com/telecom/verizon-tunes-up-quantum-technology-trial-to-bolster-security

Quantum Cryptography Demystified: How It Works in Plain Language

New ITU-T SG13 Recommendations related to IMT 2020 and Quantum Key Distribution