Latvia working on 'quantum communications' network

The Latvian State Radio and Television Centre (LVRTC) is collaborating with communications firm Tet, the Electronic Communications Office of Latvia and the Institute of Mathematics and Computer Science of the University of Latvia to begin work on the formation of a national quantum communications infrastructure system and network, reports Labs of Latvia.

The project intends to create a working quantum key distribution network between the three partners, who will be able to use these technologies and their integrations in their existing infrastructure, while also upgrading their skills and developing new services. The quantum key distribution infrastructure will allow them to exchange keys in a way that is secure against hacks by quantum computers, said a release about the initiative.

“As high technology evolves, it is crucial that next-generation solutions are developed for a secure and protected circulation of information, particularly in industries which require high data transmission security,” explains Gatis Ozols, Deputy State Secretary on Digital Transformation Affairs at the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Regional Development.

“This will both strengthen our cybersecurity defence abilities in sectors exchanging sensitive data and ensure that technological excellence is maintained in this field, as well as establishing preconditions for the development of the next level of security services in the commercial sector,” adds Ozols.

Next-level security

Two years ago, the Latvia State Radio and Television Centre collaborated with the Institute of Mathematics and Computer Science of the University of Latvia to undertake the most comprehensive quantum key distribution technology test on a data transmission network more than 33 kilometres long. This technology ensures that the information which is transmitted cannot be decoded even by quantum computers.

The test was undertaken using the Latvia State Radio and Television Centre’s optic network, as well as the computing power of its latest and most powerful data centre. The test successfully reached the highest distribution speed in Latvian history, which matches the maximum power of the encryption equipment used.

“By implementing this project, we plan on installing quantum key distribution technology in several of the most important sections of the Latvia State Radio and Television Centre’s optic network, thus providing next-level security for transmitted data,” emphasises Evijs Taube, Latvia State Radio and Television Centre Board Member.

The results proved that this technology can be used to improve security in Latvia’s communications infrastructure and data transmission, and confirmed the need to prepare for quantum computers to enter the market. This is why a national-level quantum communications infrastructure system and network creation project has commenced this year with the involvement of industry experts and scientists.

Dr. Rihards Balodis, Director of Development for the Institute of Mathematics and Computer Science of the University of Latvia, emphasises that, when preparing for the quantum era, researchers are working intensively on creating new data coding algorithms and modifying, testing and adapting communications channels for quantum photon flux — creating quantum key distribution processing systems.

“In the future, cryptography methods and data transmission system tools must be based on principles of quantum mechanics. We are already seeing good results in tests from replacing data encryption keys created by algorithms with cryptography keys generated from random number sources based on natural physical principles, and from using quantum data information encapsulated in photon flux for data broadcasting. Of course, this solution is innovative, and in this field we require both international-level research and the adaptation of national infrastructure,” emphasises Dr. Balodis.

Improved data transmission security

The involvement of the Electronic Communications Office of Latvia in the project is largely linked with investigating opportunities for integrating quantum key distribution networks into existing ones, including wireless communication systems.

“During the project, we expect to identify which of the technologies and frequency bands are the most receptive to withstanding external factors and disturbances. This will allow us to draw conclusions and prepare proposals for the standardisation of quantum key distribution equipment and evaluating compliance,” emphasises Jānis Bārda, Board Member of the Electronic Communications Office of Latvia.

During the project, the Electronic Communications Office of Latvia will implement the transmission and simulation of communications between the radio equipment of various technologies, such as radio equipment with 5G, Wi-Fi and quantum technology functionality. This will allow the Office to evaluate interface operations between wireless technologies and the optic quantum key distribution network by analysing the signals’ technical and other parameters necessary for information transmission under the influence of various external factors. The integration of quantum technology into wireless networks will improve data transmission security, thus improving service continuity and secure public access.

Developing a quantum communications network

Tet will be involved in the development of the quantum communications network, as well as investigating the needs of the finance and healthcare industries in closer detail, checking how the scenarios and requirements characteristic to both industries operate with quantum communications. The company will train specialists from these industries to work with quantum communications technology. Dmitrijs Ņikitins, Chief Technology Director at Tet, emphasises that the cybersecurity situation both in Latvia and globally has become particularly tense over the past few years.

“Technological development doesn’t stand still, and criminals are finding increasing technical opportunities to attack our systems. Because of this, it is extremely important to create new ways to protect our data. That’s why we are pleased to be working with our partners to work on a project over the next few years which will prove an invaluable investment in the next steps of data encryption not just within Latvia, but also across borders,” explains Ņikitins.

The project will also train planners, maintenance staff, cybersecurity specialists and potential users of ICT systems and networks in the use of quantum technology. The results and experience gained during the project will help the public and private service sector to base its services in the latest technologies and science.

The quantum network infrastructure will be used in the future by both the project’s current partners and others from the Latvian ICT sector. The quantum network is expected to be available for secure use by public sector institutions, businesses and private individuals by the end of 2025.

 In February 2021, Latvia joined the European Quantum Communication Infrastructure (EuroQCI) Initiative. It aims to forge collaboration between EU member states and promote access to secure quantum communication infrastructure, which is expected to increase scientific and technological opportunities and the competitiveness of quantum technology and manufacturing; strengthen cybersecurity; and improve the strategic autonomy of the EU.

The EU launched a Quantum Technologies Flagship in 2018. It is a large-scale, long-term research initiative with a budget of €1 billion funded by the EU that brings together research institutions, industry and public funders, consolidating and expanding European scientific leadership and excellence in this field.

This month will see the European Quantum Technology Conference taking place on 16-20 October in Hannover, Germany.

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