A commercial-grade quantum network link between BT at Adastral Park and Cambridge University was launched on Tuesday 26th March. Using £2M of government funding, the permanent link has taken 2 years to build and marks a significant mile stone in the UK’s ability to develop and test quantum computing technologies.
Joining BT and Cambridge University, Innovation Martlesham company ADVA and ID Quantique have worked together to create the link that runs a distance of 125Km over standard BT optical fibre. The link uses BT exchanges along the route to act as trusted nodes and forms part of the UKQN, which is a result of a collaboration between research and industry run by the Quantum Communications Hub,
The link carries data at 5 x 100Gb/s and is in essence unhackable because of Quantum key distribution (QKD).
QKD is a method of quantum security that uses single photons to transmit data encryption keys, making use of the laws of quantum mechanics that say that by simply observing a photon its state will change. Using this method means that if a hacker or eavesdropper attempts to intercept one of these keys, the act of reading the photon will change its state, introducing anomalies into the key and making it impossible for the hacker to read any of the data stream.
The launch event was held simultaneously at the two ends of the network via a QKD encrypted video link.
A range of VIPs spoke alternately at each end including Nick Chism, Director General, Enterprise at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). Various posters and demonstrations supplemented the main attraction, including some recent development by Tech Mahindra, Quintessence and BT to build a QKD-secured video messaging application running on Windows. Other attractions included the latest ultra-accurate atomic clock from T-E2V and the latest 600Gb/s optical core transmission from Adva.
Tim Whitley, MD, Research and Innovation, BT said “Today’s launch is a significant step for network security. As well as being the UK’s longest QKD-protected link able to transmit both classical and quantum applications, this solution breaks new ground by showcasing the readiness of quantum cryptography for real-world transport,” (Adavoptial.com)
Jörg-Peter Elbers, SVP, advanced technology, ADVA commented that “To get to this point, we’ve had to find innovative solutions to some major challenges. These include ensuring the stability of the quantum link by fine-tuning launch power across the network. We also had to standardize key exchange protocols and define planning rules. Collaborating with our research and industry partners, we’ve been able to overcome those challenges and are now ready to usher in a new age of ultra-secure data protection.”