BT, Toshiba launch commercial quantum communication trial

BT has collaborated with Toshiba to launch the first commercial trial of quantum-secured communication services announced at an event held at BT Tower

Following a BT Tower event, BT and Toshiba, along with EY, have launched the trial of a world-first commercial quantum secured metro network. The 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 fibre 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 network’s first commercial customer, EY, 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.

Howard Watson, Chief Technology Officer, BT, said: “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.” 

QKD keys placed in network trial to encrypt data 

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.

Shunsuke Okada, Corporate Senior Vice President and Chief Digital Officer of Toshiba, said: “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.

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 added that “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.”


Image: BT

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