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EU lays foundation for implementation of European Quantum Communication Infrastructure (EuroQCI)

State-sponsored cyberattacks are on the rise and are a significant part of the future of warfare. Fortunately, Europe has a plan called EuroQCI, which aims to build a secure quantum communication infrastructure that will span the whole EU, including its overseas territories.

According to the official EU website, “The EuroQCI will safeguard sensitive data and critical infrastructures by integrating quantum-based systems into existing communication infrastructures, providing an additional security layer based on quantum physics.”

Data security and sovereignty have been a cornerstone of policy for the EU in recent years. In establishing the EuroQCI initiative, the EU has signalled its long-term commitment to protecting its government institutions, critical infrastructure and data management environment. The EuroQCI will also form an essential part of the EU cybersecurity strategy for decades to come.

Where do we stand?

Since its introduction in June 2019, all 27 member states have signed the EuroQCI declaration. All participants will be working closely with the European Commission and the European Space Agency (ESA) to make the initiative a reality. The ESA’s participation is of particular interest as the infrastructure is set to comprise both terrestrial and orbital elements.

Terrestrial infrastructure will be reliant upon a fibre backbone, connecting wide and metro area networks at critical national and cross-border locations. Orbital elements will comprise quantum communications satellites to link quantum networks across the EU and provide global coverage.

Next steps: towards operational deployment

As we enter 2022 the initiative is well underway, with funding from the Digital Europe programme already being used to help develop QKD technologies and the roll-out of national quantum communications networks. Over the next 2 years, attention will be focussed on deploying national testbeds and on developing the cross-border links between these national networks. With the development of quantum computing technologies continuing apace, the European Commission has signalled that it expects the project to be fully operational by 2027.

“Work on the EuroQCI is already underway, coordinated by the Commission in the case of the terrestrial segment, and ESA in the case of the space segment. This includes the first steps towards operational quantum key distribution (QKD) services, a highly secure form of encryption, building on the activities of the Horizon 2020 OPENQKD project.”

IDQ and the EU – a history of collaboration

Recently ID Quantique, a world leader in quantum key distribution (QKD), random number generators (QRNG) and quantum photonic instrumentation has set up a new Center of Competence in Quantum Communications in Austria to support Europe’s leadership in Quantum technologies.

ID Quantique has a long tradition of strong partnerships with European universities, research institutes and industries. For example, IDQ has supplied 16 out of 25 industrialised QKD systems to the OpenQKD project, which can be seen as a precursor of the upcoming national testbeds. IDQ staff closely works with local testbed coordinators and other suppliers to design, install, run and evaluate 17+ use cases all over Europe.

A physical presence in the EU has therefore become a logical and timely step for IDQ to support the EU’s efforts towards technology sovereignty. IDQ’s ambition is to continue to strengthen the EU’s technological competitiveness.

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