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Toshiba tests show QKD can be integrated into existing regional networks

29 Feb 2024

Deployment with network operator Orange shows that quantum keys are compatible with 400 Gb/s channel speeds.

Toshiba Europe, one of the pioneers of quantum key distribution (QKD) for securing optical communications links, says that its latest tests show the technology works when deployed on a high-speed network nearly 200 km long.

Its experiments with network operator Orange evaluated the performance of a QKD system using 1310 nm wavelength transmission, co-propagated with dense-wavelength division multiplexing (DWDM) data channels using near-1550 nm transmission.

And according to their research paper, published in the Journal of Lightwave Technology earlier this month, it was possible to transmit a 400 Gb/s data channel while transporting a QKD-secured 100 Gigabit Ethernet data stream.

“Encryption is demonstrated at the same time as co-propagation,” reported Toshiba Europe’s Andrew Shields and colleagues, of a setup using three QKD systems and two trusted nodes to secure a 184 km link.

Last year, Toshiba and Orange had shown that QKD technology could be deployed on existing fiber networks alongside existing classical data services, while the latest experiments sought to evaluate its suitability for a more complex architecture emulating current optical fiber network deployments.

Real-life networks
“We’ve seen that many organizations are moving from merely evaluating the threat posed by quantum computing to taking action to protect themselves,” commented Shields, who heads up Toshiba’s quantum technology division based in Cambridge, UK.

“These lab evaluations have demonstrated that our QKD technology can be successfully deployed on real-life networks for real-life applications, today, without the need for further investment in new infrastructure.”

Laurent Leboucher, the group CTO and senior VP at Orange Innovation Networks, added: “Data security is the bedrock of our services at Orange, and we’re excited to reveal the successful outcomes of our collaboration with Toshiba.

“Our [latest] work demonstrates that QKD can be integrated into existing regional network infrastructures, marking a significant advancement in quantum-secure communications.”

During the latest experiments, Toshiba and Orange tested two different types of QKD technology within the end-to-end system.

Two 67 km sections used Toshiba’s long-distance technology, which features two optical fibers to carry both quantum and classical signals, while a single 50 km link used the firm’s multiplexed QKD technology - where the quantum channel co-propagates with the data channels.

The company, which has been at the forefront of QKD development for more than two decades, says that the paper published with Orange provides experimental results and important considerations for any organization planning to implement QKD encryption.

“[The work] demonstrates how it’s possible for high-speed quantum secure data encryption to be deployed over multi-link fiber networks, co-existing with conventional data services utilizing the type of network infrastructure often used in metropolitan settings,” it stated.

Toshiba Europe has also been working closely with the likes of BT and banking giants HSBC and SoftBank to demonstrate the high security and practicality of its QKD systems, while in September 2023 it officially opened its new £20 million Quantum Technology Centre in Cambridge.

First Light ImagingABTechTRIOPTICS GmbHLASEROPTIK GmbHAlluxaBerkeley Nucleonics CorporationIridian Spectral Technologies
© 2024 SPIE Europe
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