Britain’s BT and Japan’s Toshiba launched the first commercial trial of a quantum-secured network on Wednesday. The network aims to block vulnerabilities in encryption that will come to light when quantum computing becomes mainstream.
Professional services group EY will use the network to connect two sites in London, one at the London Bridge and another at Canary Wharf, the companies explained.
The technology behind quantum computers offers the potential to crunch data millions of times faster than supercomputers, even though quantum computers are unreliable and costly. It is being developed by companies including Google, IBM, and Microsoft.
Quantum computing uses a property of sub-atomic particles that can exist together in different states, which can become entangled, influencing each other’s behavior in an observable way and increasing computing power. This is in contrast to storing information in bits (zeroes and ones).
BT Chief Technology Officer Howard Watson said that quantum technology could potentially break current encryption keys while data is being transmitted.
He said that quantum key distribution (QKD) uses photonics to transmit the encryption key in fiber networks. If the QKD is hacked in transmission, its state will be changed, and an attack can be detected in real-time.
With EY as their first trial customer, Watson said BT and Toshiba were “paving the way for further commercial explorations for quantum technologies.”
The companies said that BT will provide the end-to-end encrypted links over its Openreach private fiber networks. On the other hand, Toshiba is providing the QKD hardware and key management software.