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BT conducts 'world's first' trial of quantum-secure communications

The achievement was made possible using hollow-core fibre cable provided by a Southampton Uni startup

BT has announced that it had conducted the world’s first trial of Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) over hollow-core fibre cable.

QKD technology can be used to conduct ultra-secure communications with reduced latency and no appreciable crosstalk, allowing it to be used in a number of applications, including Data Centre Interconnects (DCIs), edge and 5G xHaul.

Trials of the technology began in June at BT’s research and engineering campus in Adastral Park, Ipswich. Today, the company has announced that its researchers managed to successfully operate a state-of-the-art QKD system.

BT’s achievement was made possible using a six-metre-long cable provided by Lumenisity Limited, a startup rooted in Southampton University. The cable has a hollow, air-filled centre, allowing signals to be transmitted over quantum light on a single photon channel, as opposed to solid pieces of glass used in optical fibre communications.

Lumenisity’s Sales and Marketing VP Tony Pearson, said that the company is “excited to be identifying new applications for our field-deployable CoreSmart cable solutions and working with the BT team on the first trial in the world of this kind”. 

“This milestone further accentuates not just the capability of our hollow-core cable solutions, offering low latency and high bandwidth, but also demonstrating the potential CoreSmart has in new applications thanks to ultra-low non-linearity and dispersion across a broad spectrum, perfect for networks operated by our Carrier partners,” he added.

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The QKD system used in the trial was provided on loan by the EU OpenQKD project, which is also helping conduct tests of quantum communication infrastructure in Austria, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Spain, and Switzerland. However, the trial conducted by BT in the UK is the first of its kind.

BT’s head of Optical Network Research, Professor Andrew Lord, described the achievement as “a critical advancement for the future of secure communications”.

“This is an exciting milestone for BT, accelerating the UK’s lead in quantum technologies that will play an important role in future communications systems globally.  We’ve proven a range of benefits that can be realised by deploying hollow-core fibre for quantum-secure communication,” he said.

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