European quantum network underway

European quantum network underway

Italy, Slovenia and Croatia are the first three European countries to have been connected through EuroQci, the innovative European network for quantum communications, in which Italy participates with the support of the National Research Council (Cnr) and the universities of Florence and Trieste. This was reported by the Advanced quantum technologies magazine, which published the results of the first public demonstration of encrypted communication of the program, successfully carried out during the G20 ministers meeting on digitization, held in Trieste in 2021.

In June 2019, the 27 member states of the European Union joined the EuroQCI project, signing the Declaration on the European Quantum Communications Infrastructure. The aim is to strengthen the protection of European government institutions, their data centers, hospitals, energy networks and more, becoming one of the main pillars of the new Union cyber security strategy for the next decades.

EuroQci is coordinated by the European Commission for fiber optic terrestrial connections and by the European Space Agency (ESA) for satellite connections. The first service activated is Quantum key distribution (Qkd), a protocol capable of providing secure data communications thanks to the laws of quantum physics, protecting against potential attacks. As the statement released by the Cnr underlines, any attempt to intercept the key distributed through Qkd would leave a trace that can be used to detect the intrusion and to act against any threats.

After the first public demonstration of the Qkd connection, the EuroQci initiative has officially kicked off, permanently connecting Trieste to Rijeka, with a single 100-kilometer fiber connection, and to Ljubljana, via a trusted node in Postojna , i.e. a repetition node consisting of a receiver-transmitter pair Qkd, in which the photons are read until the key is reconstructed, which is then transmitted on the adjacent link. In this way, one Qkd link can be connected to the next to create an extended network.

The network was created thanks to the University of Trieste, the Quantum communications group of the National Institute of Optics (Ino) of the Cnr of Florence, at the Technical University of Denmark (Dtu) and at the University of Florence in the context of the "Quantum FVG", a project financed by the Autonomous Region of Friuli Venezia Giulia, by the Faculty of Mathematics and Physics of the University of Ljubljana, by the Institute Ruder Bošković and the Faculty of Transportation and Traffic Sciences in Zagreb. The technical implementation was handled by Qti srl, a Cnr spin-off and Telsy investee company, with the support of Tim, Sparkle, Telekom Slovenije, Oiv - Digital signals and networks, Stelkom and Lightnet who supplied the infrastructure in optical fiber.