The Quantum Communications Hub, funded through the UK National Quantum Technologies Programme, is a major collaboration of university and industrial partners brought together to accelerate development and commercialisation of quantum secure communications technologies at all distance scales. The focus is primarily on technology applications reliant on Quantum Key Distribution or QKD – a mature quantum technology which enables ultra-secure distribution of encryption keys.
Major Hub achievements over the original phase of the work (2014 – 2019) include:
- Building and launching the UK’s first Quantum Network, demonstrating that quantum secure communications can operate in the real world, alongside conventional high speed optical communications, using standard commercial grade optical fibre
- Advancing miniaturisation of QKD technologies, and demonstrating the world’s first chip-to-chip QKD encrypted transmission
- Demonstration of free-space QKD between a handheld device and wall mounted terminal, paving the way for wireless short-range QKD with continuous supply of provably secure keys
Significant progress was also made towards real-world realisation of new approaches beyond QKD, such as advancing the assurance process for Quantum Random Number Generators (QRNGs), and taking quantum digital signatures, from laboratory demonstrations over several metres of optical fibre to practical 100km distances in metropolitan networks.
The Hub vision for its second operational phase (2019 – 2024) is to integrate quantum secure communications at all distance scales through the development of a range of applications and services with the potential for integration with existing infrastructure.
Specifically the Hub is aiming to:
- Extend and evolve the UK Quantum Network – exploring new networking approaches including entanglement distribution and CV-QKD; developing novel architectures for the integration of classical and quantum communications; operating technology trials and demonstrations over our networks, and using these as testbeds to engage users.
- Advance miniaturisation of QKD technologies onto chips – enabling integration of low-cost, reliable and handheld quantum technologies with current consumer devices and service operations.
- Overcome the current distance limitations of terrestrial fibre-based QKD – developing and trialling satellite quantum communications technologies for the secure transfer of information worldwide.
- Develop new quantum sources, detectors and protocols beyond QKD.
Underpinning all Hub technologies is a focus on security – of devices, systems and end-to-end. This cross-cutting theme embraces work on metrology, calibration and worldwide certification of standards for industry (particularly through partnerships with NPL and ETSI); integration of quantum and post-quantum technologies; undertaking cryptographic and security analysis, vulnerability analysis and testing, combined with the development of countermeasures – all from the perspective of providing practical and secure applications and services at all distance scales.