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SK Telecom to Build Quantum Cryptography-Based Communications Networks in Europe
Expanding Quantum Cryptography Business
SK Telecom to Build Quantum Cryptography-Based Communications Networks in Europe
  • By Michael Herh
  • October 21, 2019, 11:05
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Gregoire Ribordy, CEO of IDQ, makes a presentation on its quantum cryptography-based communications business in Europe and the United States in Helsinki, Finland on Oct. 17 (local time).

SK Telecom and its subsidiary IDQ, which joined forces a year ago, have received orders for quantum cryptography-based communication networks one after another in Europe and the United States.

SK Telecom announced on Oct. 20 that IDQ will participate as the number one supplier of quantum key distributors (QKDs) in the Open QKD project promoted by the Quantum Flagship under the EU.

The field of quantum information and communications is largely divided into quantum computers that solve complex operations in a short time and quantum cryptography that blocks hacking attempts. If a quantum computer is a spear, quantum cryptography is a shield. A quantum is the smallest unit of physical quantity that cannot be further divided, and has the characteristics of changing its state when receiving even weak stimuli such as those from soap bubbles. Quantum cryptography-based communications makes use of these sensitive characteristics of a quantum to create an encryption key that thwarts a third party's hacking attempts and give the key to the sender and receiver.

In 2018, SK Telecom invested about 70 billion won in IDQ, a Swiss quantum ICT company. It integrated all of its quantum technology research units into IDQ and opened an IDQ office in Switzerland, Korea, the United States, and the United Kingdom. As a result, SK Telecom and IDQ have generated synergies through a combination of the former’s telecommunication business capabilities and the latter’s fundamental quantum technology.

The EU plans to build a quantum cryptographic test network to lay the groundwork for development of all quantum applications. It plans to invest 15 million euros over three years to build the network, primarily in major European countries. The project will start this year. IDQ will play the most important role in the Open QKD project.

IDQ will supply QKDs to the largest number of sections among companies and research centers participating in the project. IDQ establishes a quantum cryptographic test network in 14 sections (one section: about 100 km long) in major European countries including Geneva, Switzerland, Berlin in Germany, Madrid in Spain and Vienna in Austria. The Open QKD project involves a total of 38 partners including not only mobile operators and telecommunication equipment companies such as Deutsche Telekom, Orange, Nokia, and ADVA but governments and research institutes at universities.

At the same time, IDQ plans to apply quantum cryptographic technology to promising industries such as blockchain, smart grid and smart hospitals in Geneva, Switzerland by partnering with companies and universities. The plan aims to create more business opportunities by expanding ecosystems of quantum cryptography-based communications.

IDQ will develop a solution for quantum safes that prevents cryptocurrency hacking from cryptocurrency exchanges jointly with Swiss blockchain company Mt Pelerin. It will also cooperate with power and network operator SIG in the field of smart grids. IDQ will build a safe power supply network by applying quantum cryptography to SIG's data centers and power plants. In partnership with the University of Geneva, IDQ will study encryption solutions that help hospitals keep patient data secure for a long period of time.

In addition, IDQ has recently provided hardware for the first quantum cryptography network between New York and New Jersey in the United States. The network was developed by Quantum Xchange, a U.S. quantum communication company with which IDQ forged a partnership last year. The network ensures the security of financial information on Wall Street, New York, where information security is more important than any other things. IDQ and Quantum Xchange are planning to expand the current quantum cryptography network into an 800 km-long-section from Washington, D.C. to Boston by next year. IDQ will supply QKDs while Quantum Xchange will apply a solution that extends the length of encryption key transmission.

In addition, IDQ will establish a quantum cryptography-based communications network in Guam, a popular tourist destination, in cooperation with IT&E in Guam and Saipan in November. Meanwhile, SK Telecom applied quantum cryptography technology to Korea's 5G subscriber authentication servers for the first time for the first time in the world in March of this year.