KPN aims for quantum-secure network across Netherlands on ex

KPN aims for quantum-secure network across Netherlands on existing fibre

06 July 2021 | Alan Burkitt-Gray

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KPN plans to build a Netherlands-wide quantum-secure telecoms network using its existing fibre infrastructure.

And the company said today that it hopes to expand the network into Belgium, France and Germany as the first step towards a highly secure European network.

Victoria Lipinska (pictured), KPN’s quantum adviser, said at a live demonstration of the technology today that the company wants to use existing fibre alongside normal traffic for the quantum-secure signals.

“This is possible, we can use existing fibre in the ground in the Netherlands and Europe, for inter-city connections.”

Today’s trial used conventional wavelength-division multiplexed (WDM) traffic from Cisco kit along the same fibre as quantum-encrypted traffic from QuTech, a Netherlands quantum company, working with Quantum Delta NL, which has five major quantum hubs.

The test traffic ran between Delft and The Hague, using quantum key distribution (QKD) from a central node in Rijswijk. The technique used is called measurement device independent QKD (MDI QKD), said Joshua Slater, quantum cryptography team leader at QuTech and the Delft University of Technology.

The central node can’t learn the secrets transmitted between the end nodes, Delft and The Hague, said Slater. And if an eavesdropper intercepts the transmission, the system immediately detects the fact. “You can be certain there is no eavesdropper in the link,” said Slater.

KPN is planning to expand the central node so it can handle traffic between multiple endpoints, said Lipinska.

“This is the first element in building a national network, that can be used as a stable network,” said Jesse Robbers, director of Quantum Delta NL. He is looking to developing a European Union-wide quantum network.

“QKD offers strong security,” said Lipinska. The technology has uses in military, government, police and health applications “which have to be very strongly protected”. KPN will use QKD to connect data centres, she added.

The next step is “to scale out to more usersusing a single fibre to the central node”, said Slater. “Integration is the next step. Who are the users who want to connect to these servers?”

Users will need a quantum device at each node, said Lipinska. “Hopefully they will get smaller and cheaper and we can plug them into your computer,” she added.

Current range between nodes is 150km, but the project is aiming to upgrade the system over the next few months to reach 250km.

“Now we need more customers who think they might benefit from this technology,” said Lipinska. “Identifying the use cases is really important.”