BT and Toshiba collaborate to build the world’s first commercial quantum-secured metro network across London

Recent innovations in Quantum computers have posed a threat to standard encrypted key exchanges, authentication, and digital signatures. This robust improvement in quantum technology suggests that security attacks will be a major problem five to ten years from today. 

To develop a stronger and reliable network infrastructure, BT, the leading telecommunications and network provider in the UK, and Toshiba, a world-class technology corporation have announced their collaboration to build and trial the world’s first commercially available quantum-secured metro network. 

The new network infrastructure security uses a unique security technique known as Quantum Key Distribution which has a secured key exchange protected from all forms of attack by Quantum computers. The network is expected to provide data services through Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) and Post Quantum Cryptography (PQC) while linking sites in London’s Docklands, the City, and the M4 corridor.

The newly unveiled network which will be operated by BT will provide high bandwidth end-to-end encrypted links that will be distributed through Openreach’s Optical Spectrum Access Filter Connect (OSA FC) solution for private fibre networks. This is one of the key network security services to be provided by the quantum network infrastructure.

According to BT and Toshiba, developing a quantum-secured network environment with multiple endpoints will require new approaches to integration and management. However, by improving the existing point-to-point quantum security solution which was built for the National Composite Center (NCC) and Centre for Modelling and Simulation (CFMS), the new network security solution can be used to serve multiple clients across a wider community.

While looking to deploy this technology in a metropolitan area such as London, BT and Toshiba’s main focus is to provide trial services to enterprises that have a large amount of sensitive data. This includes legal and financial institutions. They also intend to explore encrypted links and quantum keys.

The CTO of BT, Harvard Watson has expressed excitement over their collaboration with Toshiba to develop a quantum-secured network that will provide secure and trusted data transfers between individuals and businesses.

Taro Shimada, the Corporate Senior Vice President, and Chief Digital Officer at Toshiba Corporations also added that their partnership with BT will allow them to efficiently serve customers with secured network services devoid of attacks from quantum computers.

In 2017, BT undertook field trials of QKD integrated into a secured optical communications network. The company also ran a second QKD trial on a live network linking Cambridge and its Adastral Park R&D campus in Ipswitch.

Toshiba, in collaboration with BT, installed the first industrial quantum-secured network in the UK which transmits data between the NCC and CFMS. They have also conducted extensive research on quantum technology at its Cambridge Research Laboratory. This research led to their achievements in developing quantum network security that is reliable and can be commercially used as a viable quantum-secure network in the UK.