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Europe names partners for quantum communication network

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The European Commission has selected a consortium of companies and research institutes to study the design of the future European quantum communication network, EuroQCI (quantum communication infrastructure).

The consortium is led by Airbus and includes Leonardo, Orange, PwC France and Maghreb, Telespazio (a 67/33 joint venture between Leonardo and Thales), the Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche (CNR) and the Istituto Nazionale di Ricerca Metrologica (INRiM).

The EuroQCI will integrate quantum technologies and systems into terrestrial fibre optic communication networks, and will include a space-based segment ensuring full coverage across the EU and other continents. 

Since June 2019, 26 Member States have signed the EuroQCI Declaration, agreeing to work together with the Commission, supported by the European Space Agency (ESA), towards the development of a quantum communication infrastructure covering the whole EU.

EuroQCI will enhance security for Europe’s encryption systems and critical infrastructures such as government institutions, air traffic control, healthcare facilities, banks and power grids against current and future cyber threats.

The long-term plan is for the EuroQCI to become the basis of a quantum internet in Europe, connecting quantum computers, simulators and sensors via quantum networks to distribute information and resources with a state-of-the-art security method.

The first service to make use of it will be quantum key distribution (QKD). The QKD service will transmit encryption keys through quantum communication channels on both terrestrial fibre optic and space laser links. Using quantum photon states makes key distribution immune to vulnerabilities unlike the current methods.

A 15-month study will set out the details of the end-to-end system and design the terrestrial segment supporting the QKD service. It will develop a detailed implementation roadmap, including the cost and timeline of each implementation phase. In addition, the study will support the European Commission in designing an advanced QCI testing and validation infrastructure including standards. The objective is to run a EuroQCI demonstrator by 2024 and an initial operational service by 2027.

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