Norbert Riepl

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Deutsche Telekom and partners will design the European Quantum Communication Infrastructure (EuroQCI)

  • Study serves as architecture blueprint for the European quantum security network, EuroQCI
  • Interim results have been delivered to the European Commission in December 2021
  • The “QSAFE” consortium comprises strong European industry partners as Deutsche Telekom, Thales, Thales Alenia Space and Telefónica and a well-known research institutes as the AIT Austrian Institute of Technology

After European Commission selected the QSAFE (Quantum Network System Architecture for Europe) consortium to design the European Quantum Communication Infrastructure last April, the interim results have just been delivered. The scope of these results includes the initial technical design, security analyses, initial network dimensioning and lays the foundation for future implementation of the EuroQCI network. 

The key to security 

For the secure encryption of sensitive information, it is necessary that the keys are shared securely enough among the communication partners. Tried-and-tested encryption methods such as RSA (Rivest, Shamir, Adleman) or DH (Diffie-Hellman) will no longer remain secure against quantum computer attacks. This poses a threat to all modern communications and makes the switch to quantum keys essential. Quantum-key technology is based on physical laws of nature that signal unavoidably a potential eavesdropper. Critical infrastructures, confidential private or government information will be protected by quantum keys against attacks and criminal intentions.

The QSAFE study

The QSAFE consortium led by Deutsche Telekom gathers European partners with a 20-year background in quantum communications for European quantum infrastructure: the AIT Austrian Institute of Technology, Thales, Thales Alenia Space and Telefónica Investigación y Desarrollo SA. Associate partners from Academia and from highly specialized companies are additionally involved in the project.

The study, conducted over fifteen months, follows the ‘security-by-design’ approach and elaborates the basis for the deployment of a European quantum infrastructure considering fibre-based terrestrial as well as satellite-based components. It is the follow-up of a first feasibility phase conducted in 2020, with the same consortium led by Thales at that time.

The study is part of the European Union’s efforts to advance the development of independent and secure quantum communication technologies. End of July 2021, Ireland was the last of the 27 EU Member States to sign the EuroQCI declaration, which is a commitment that the Member States, the European Commission and the European Space Agency together plan to jointly deploy a secure quantum communication infrastructure.

In April 2021, the European Commission initiated two independent studies, including the one led by the QSAFE consortium, to define the architecture of a EuroQCI. The studies centre around the production of quantum-secured keys (Quantum Key Distribution, QKD). The scope is to design a network to deliver keys between different end points, where the keys are used for encryption and decryption of classified data, in a way that a potential spy is always detected. The first users will be the European Union, EU Member States and additional government-related agencies.

The study will serve the European Commission as a basis for the next steps on the journey to establishing a European quantum communication infrastructure. All aspects – costs, security, technology, network dimensioning, planning, operational model, etc. – are included in the study.

Above all, the project benefits from the diverse experiences of its partners and their long-term involvement in the field of quantum technologies. EuroQCI is essentially a communication network. As such, Deutsche Telekom and Telefónica bring in their fundamental know-how to plan, build, and run a network. In the context of European research activities, both companies have already installed quantum testbeds in Madrid and Berlin and are investigating the interaction between quantum technology and established network equipment. As one of the leading international applied research institutions with special competences in the field of QKD technologies, the AIT Austrian Institute of Technology makes important contributions to quantum technology development and implementation of pilot experiments as well as testbeds in Europe. Thales is a global leader in complex, critical security systems for defence, transport, aerospace, and critical infrastructures. The company is contributing to the project sharing its expertise in cybersecurity and cryptography. Thales Alenia Space is the worldwide leader in telecom satellite constellations and covers aspects of satellite based QKD.

The QSAFE consortium closely collaborates with certain national government representatives. As such, EuroQCI aligns to national and European security policies.

The combination of large European network operators, system integrators, network suppliers for optical communication networks and space components as well as top experts from universities and research institutes forms the ideal framework to design the optimal European Quantum Key Distribution network.

About Deutsche Telekom: Deutsche Telekom at a glance
About T-Systems: T-Systems company profile

About Thales
Thales (Euronext Paris: HO) is a global leader in advanced technologies, investing in digital and “deep tech” innovations – connectivity, big data, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity and quantum computing – to build a confident future crucial for the development of our societies. The Group provides its customers – businesses, organisations and governments – in the defence, aeronautics, space, transport, and digital identity and security domains with solutions, services and products that help them fulfil their critical role, consideration for the individual being the driving force behind all decisions.
Thales has 81,000 employees in 68 countries. In 2020 the Group generated sales of €17 billion.

About Thales Alenia Space
Drawing on over 40 years of experience and a unique combination of skills, expertise and cultures, Thales Alenia Space delivers cost-effective solutions for telecommunications, navigation, Earth observation, environmental management, exploration, science and orbital infrastructures. Governments and private industry alike count on Thales Alenia Space to design satellite-based systems that provide anytime, anywhere connections and positioning, monitor our planet, enhance management of its resources, and explore our Solar System and beyond. Thales Alenia Space sees space as a new horizon, helping to build a better, more sustainable life on Earth. A joint venture between Thales (67%) and Leonardo (33%), Thales Alenia Space also teams up with Telespazio to form the parent companies’ Space Alliance, which offers a complete range of services. Thales Alenia Space posted consolidated revenues of approximately 1.85 billion euros in 2020 and has around 7,700 employees in 10 countries with 17 sites in Europe and a plant in the US.

Thales press contacts
Alice Pruvot
+331 57 77 89 52 

Thales Alenia Space press contacts
Sandrine Bielecki
Tel.: +33 (0)4 92 92 70 94
Catherine des Arcis
Tel.: +33 (0)6 78 64 63 97

About Telefónica
Telefónica is one of the largest telecommunications service providers in the world. The company offers fixed and mobile connectivity as well as a wide range of digital services for residential and business customers. With more than 365 million customers, Telefónica operates in Europe and Latin America.

Telefónica, S.A. 
Dirección de Comunicación Corporativa 
Tel: +34 91 482 38 00 

About AIT Austrian Institute of Technology
The AIT Austrian Institute of Technology has about 1.450 employees and is Austria’s largest non-university research institute. With its seven centres, AIT regards itself as a highly specialised research and development partner for industry. AIT provides research and technological development to realize basic innovations for the next generation of infrastructure related technologies in the fields of Energy, Low-Emission Transport, Health & Bioresources, Digital Safety & Security, Vision, Automation & Control and Technology Experience. These technological research areas are supplemented by the competence in the area of Innovation Systems & Policy. In the Center for Digital Safety & Security over 200 experts are developing state-of-the-art information and communication technologies to ensure that our systems are highly secure and reliable in the context of comprehensive digitization and global networking. The centre focuses on key technology areas such as quantum and photonics technologies as well as state-of-the-art cryptographic methods (Post Quantum Encryption) or cyber security for IT and industrial control systems. More information at 

Michael W. Mürling
Marketing and Communications
AIT Austrian Institute of Technology 
Center for Digital Safety & Security
T +43 (0)50550-4126