BT has conducted the world’s first trial of Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) over commercial hollow core fibre cable.
The trial uses 6km of a new type of optical fibre – Nested Anti-Resonant Nodeless Fibre (NANF) hollow core fibre – developed by Southampton University spin out Lumenisity. This has been combined with a state-of-the-art QKD system from the EU’s OpenQKD project.
The hollow, air-filled optical fibre reduces latency and has no appreciable crosstalk, which is more suitable for QKD systems that use single photons and usually requires a separate cable. This makes it easier to deliver both a high-speed encrypted data stream and the QKD signal with the encryption key over the same fibre.
This means commercial telecommunications equipment will not need to be optimised in order to send a data-encrypted key. This is critically important because the equipment can be used normally without modifications, an issue that creates added complications for sending secure signals over standard fibre.
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BT has already demonstrated a commercial QKD link at the National Composites Centre in Bristol using equipment from Toshiba.
“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. Hollow core fibre’s low latency and ability to send QKD over a single fibre with other signals is a critical advancement for the future of secure communications,” said Professor Andrew Lord, BT’s Head of Optical Network Research.
“We are 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,” said Tony Pearson, VP Sales and Marketing at Lumenisity. “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.”
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