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Operators join European quantum communication infrastructure pilot


The European Commission has launched a pilot project to test quantum communication infrastructure in several European countries.

The OPENQKD initiative aims to boost the security of critical applications in telecommunications, healthcare, utilities and government services.

It will create and test communication network infrastructure with a built-in quantum element, using Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) – an ultra-secure form of encryption that allows data to be transmitted with a very high level of security.

The project aims to lay the groundwork for a pan-European quantum communication infrastructure that uses satellite as well as ground-based solutions. The testbed will test the interoperability of equipment supplied by different quantum manufacturers.

The OPENQKD consortium consists of 38 partners from 13 member states and Horizon 2020 associated states,  including quantum equipment manufacturers, network operators (such as BT, Orange, Deutsche Telekom and Telefonica), system integrators, SMEs, universities, certification and standardisation bodies, and end-users.

Quantum moves towards the market

Hannes Hübel, a scientist at the AIT Austrian Institute of Technology, and project leader of OPENQKD, said, “After successfully demonstrating the basic concept of QKD, quantum-based cryptography has achieved a mature state and we are proud to lift quantum technology now onto a market-ready level – ready to be deployed in everyday-life applications.” 

The Europe Commission agreed to fund OPENQKD following a Horizon 2020 call for proposals in 2018. OPENQKD’s activities will take place throughout Europe, in Austria, Spain, Poland, Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland, France, Italy, UK, Greece and the Czech Republic.

OPENQKD will also work to identify new quantum use-cases by supporting start-ups and SMEs, as well as offering modern test facilities. A further objective for the project is to devise standards and security certifications for this infrastructure.

Initially, the OPENQKD project will have a budget of €15 million over three years.