Deutsche Telekom leads design of European quantum communications infrastructure


After the European Commission selected the QSAFE (Quantum Network System Architecture for Europe) consortium to design the European quantum communication infrastructure last April, the interim results have just been delivered.

The scope of these results includes the initial technical design, the safety analyzes, the initial dimensioning of the network and lays the foundations for the future implementation of the EuroQCI network.

The key to security

For the secure encryption of sensitive information, it is necessary that the keys are shared in a sufficiently secure manner between the communication partners. Proven encryption methods such as RSA (Rivest, Shamir, Adleman) or DH (Diffie-Hellman) will no longer remain secure against quantum computing attacks. This poses a threat to all modern communications and makes the switch to quantum keys essential. Quantum key technology is based on the physical laws of nature that inevitably signal a potential spy. Critical infrastructures, private or government confidential information will be protected by quantum keys against attacks and criminal intentions.

The QSAFE study

The QSAFE consortium led by Deutsche Telekom brings together European partners with 20 years of experience in quantum communications for European quantum infrastructures: the Austrian Institute of Technology AIT, Thales, Thales Alenia Space and Telefónica Investigación y Desarrollo SA. Associated partners from academia and highly specialized companies are also involved in the project.

The study, carried out over fifteen months, follows the “security by design” approach and lays out the bases for the deployment of a European quantum infrastructure taking into account the terrestrial and satellite components based on fiber. It follows a first feasibility phase carried out in 2020, with the same consortium led by Thales at the time.

The study is part of the European Union’s efforts to advance the development of independent and secure quantum communication technologies. At the end of July 2021, Ireland was the last of the 27 EU member states to sign the EuroQCI declaration, which is a commitment that member states, the European Commission and the European Space Agency jointly plan to jointly deploy an infrastructure of secure quantum communication.

In April 2021, the European Commission launched two independent studies, including that carried out by the QSAFE consortium, to define the architecture of a EuroQCI. The studies revolve around the production of quantum-secured keys (Quantum Key Distribution, QKD). The goal is to design a network to provide keys between different endpoints, where the keys are used for encryption and decryption of classified data, so as to always detect a potential spy. The first users will be the European Union, EU member states and other government agencies.

The study will serve as a basis for the European Commission for the next steps in the establishment of a European infrastructure for quantum communication. All aspects – costs, security, technology, network sizing, planning, operating model, etc. – are included in the study.

Above all, the project benefits from the diversity of its partners’ experiences and their long-standing involvement in the field of quantum technologies. EuroQCI is essentially a communication network. As such, Deutsche Telekom and Telefónica bring their fundamental know-how to plan, build and manage a network. As part of European research activities, the two companies have already set up quantum test beds in Madrid and Berlin and are studying the interaction between quantum technology and established network equipment. As one of the leading international applied research institutions with special skills in the field of QKD technologies, the Austrian Institute of Technology AIT makes an important contribution to the development of quantum technology and the implementation of experiments. pilots as well as test benches in Europe. Thales is a world leader in complex and critical security systems for defense, transport, aerospace and critical infrastructure. The company contributes to the project by sharing its expertise in cybersecurity and cryptography. Thales Alenia Space is the world leader in telecommunications satellite constellations and covers aspects of QKD by satellite.

The QSAFE consortium works closely with some representatives of national governments. As such, EuroQCI aligns itself with national and European security policies.

The combination of large European network operators, system integrators, network providers for optical communication networks and space components as well as the best experts from universities and research institutes form the ideal framework to design the European network. optimal distribution of Quantum keys.


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