The European Commission (EC) has selected a consortium of companies and research institutes to conduct a 15-month design study for the future European quantum communication network, EuroQCI (quantum communication infrastructure), which will enable ultra-secure communication between critical infrastructure and government institutions across the EU.
Led by Airbus, the consortium also includes the Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche (CNR), the Istituto Nazionale di Ricerca Metrologica (INRiM), Leonardo, Orange, PwC France and Maghreb and Telespazio – a 67/33 Leonardo/Thales joint venture.
EuroQCI will integrate quantum technologies and systems into terrestrial fibre-optic communication networks, and will include a space-based segment ensuring full coverage across the EU. Ultimately, this will facilitate the use of secure encryption systems by government and critical infrastructure entities such as air traffic control, healthcare facilities, banks and power grids, protecting them against current and future cyber threats.
Since June 2019, 26 EU member states have signed the EuroQCI Declaration, agreeing to work with the EC, supported by the European Space Agency, towards development of a quantum communication infrastructure covering the whole EU. The long-term plan is for the EuroQCI to become the basis of a quantum internet in Europe, connecting quantum computers, simulators and sensors via quantum networks to distribute information and resources with a state of the art security structure. The first service to make use of it will be quantum key distribution (QKD), which will transmit encryption keys through quantum communication channels on both terrestrial fibre-optic and space-based laser links. Using quantum photon states makes key distribution immune to
vulnerabilities, unlike the current methods.
The study will set out details of the end-to-end system and design the terrestrial segment supporting the QKD service. It will also develop a detailed implementation roadmap, including cost and timeline for each implementation phase, and will support the EC in designing an advanced QCI testing and validation infrastructure, including standards. The objective is to run a EuroQCI demonstrator by 2024, and enable an initial operational service by 2027.