BT, Toshiba build quantum secure metro network in London

BT and Toshiba unveiled a plan to build what they touted as the world’s first commercially available quantum-secured metro network in London, expanding on an earlier trial of the technology in that city.

The operator said in a press release the network will run on subsidiary Openreach’s Optical Spectrum Access Filter Connect service for private fiber networks and use quantum key distribution (QKD) hardware and key management software from Toshiba. QKD links will connect sites in London’s Docklands, the city proper and the M4 Corridor technology hub.

QKD is a type of security that takes today’s encryption to the next level by using a stream of photons to transmit keys between locations. Any attempt to intercept the keys disrupts the photons, signaling a potential attack.

Taro Shimada, corporate SVP and chief digital officer at Toshiba, said in a statement “Our partnership with BT will allow us to offer organizations quantum-secured network services which protect their data from retrospective attacks with a quantum computer.” He added “This network paves the way for commercial QKD services in the U.K. and eventually beyond.”

Initially, the pair plan to focus on using the network to trial the technology with enterprise customers who carry sensitive traffic between sites. They will also explore other potential use cases, such as encrypted links and quantum keys-as-a-service.

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The move to launch a commercial trial follows BT and Toshiba’s earlier collaboration in October 2020 on the deployment of a QKD link connecting the U.K.’s National Composites Centre research facility with the non-profit Centre for Modelling & Simulation. Last month, BT teamed with Lumenisity to test QKD transmissions over hollow core fiber.

Other operators, including Verizon, Colt Technology Services and Telefonica are also trialing QKD technology.

Howard Watson, CTO of BT, stated “Secure, robust and trusted data transfer is increasingly crucial to our customers across the globe, so we’re proud of the role our Quantum R&D program is playing in making the world’s networks safer as we enter the dawn of a new age of quantum computing.”