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Quantum technologies can be applied on a standard telecommunications network

Contributed by: Center for Computational Simulation

An experimental trial of quantum cryptography fully integrated with the communications network, combining the transmission of information and quantum keys over the same optical infrastructure, has been successfully developed in Spain.
Quantum technologies can be applied on a standard telecommunications network
Spain has achieved experimental success, operating, for the first time, a quantum cryptography network integrated in a commercial optical network through technologies based on Software Defined Networking (SDN), allowing for the implementation of quantum and classical network services in a flexible, dynamic and scalable manner.

The network uses an infrastructure of fiber provided by Telefonica Spain that connects three of its facilities located in the metropolitan area of Madrid. The trial has been ongoing since last May and a preliminary report has been recently presented at QCRYPT2018, the largest conference in the field.

The network integrates Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) devices developed by the Huawei Research Lab in Munich, in collaboration with the Center for Computational Simulation (CCS) at the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (UPM) through the Research Group in Information and Quantum Computation at the Computer Sciences school (Escuela Técnica Superior de Ingenieros Informáticos).

The network’s SDN-based management modules have been developed by Telefónica’s GCTIO Network Innovation team, and the components required for integration of quantum cryptography have been developed by CCS with SDN and network function virtualization (NFV) technologies.

Integrating all of these elements has made it possible to demonstrate that QKD techniques can be applied in a real production environment, combining the transmission of data and quantum keys over the same fiber.

The management of the quantum and classical channels is done in an integrated way through SDN techniques, sharing the optical network in an optimal way. The fact that this has been developed on an existing infrastructure using standard communications systems highlights the maturity of this technology, which allows switching between links connecting points that may be up to 60 kilometers apart.

This technology is also capable of having more than twenty channels sharing the same fiber in the same optical band that uses the quantum channel, allowing the simultaneous transmission of quantum signals with more than two terabytes per second of data in metropolitan area networks when using standard 100 gigabytes per second modules.

An advanced security quantum solution

Secure communications are based on the use of cryptography, in which information is encrypted using a secret key. Only the users who know the decryption key can access the secret messages. The cryptographic techniques currently in use to exchange keys or electronically sign documents are based on mathematical problems that need too much time to solve. However, as computing capacity increases, the time to solution is reduced, along with the security of these methods.

To avoid this problem, the size of the keys has had to increase as computing capacity has grown. These techniques may be rendered completely obsolete with the emergence of quantum computers that, using the principles of quantum mechanics, can solve presently intractable problems. These include breaking the keys generated by the most used cryptographic methods, making the majority of the communications security infrastructure useless.

Nevertheless, quantum technologies offer a solution to the vulnerability of current methods. With these technologies it is possible to apply quantum principles to generate a secret key through a public communications channel, so that the key is secure against any attack, including one from a quantum computer. Quantum technology even makes it possible for any attack attempt to be immediately detected.



    Center for Computational Simulation


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  • Germany, Spain


quantum cryptography, Software Defined Networking (SDN), QCRYPT2018, Quantum Key Distribution (QKD), network function virtualization (NFV), Quantum technologies
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