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BT builds the world's first "unhackable" network

(Image credit: Image source: Shutterstock/Ekaphon maneechot)

BT has announced that it has built the first practical quantum-secured high-speed fibre network in the UK running from Cambridge to BT Labs in Adastral Park, Ipswich.

The project was a collaboration between the telecom and the Quantum Communications Hub which is part of the UK National Quantum Technologies Programme.

Over the past two years, researchers from BT, the University of York and the University of Cambridge have been working to build the “ultra-secure” connection. The connection itself is secured by the laws of physics and will connect to the Cambridge Metropolitan QKD Network.

The quantum-secured link runs across a standard fibre connection through multiple BT exchanges over a distance of 120km. It is also the first high-speed 'real-world' deployment of quantum-based network security in the UK.

The network link can transfer 500Gbps of data and will be employed to test use cases for Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) technologies such as securing critical national infrastructure and protecting the transfer of critical data.

The reason the quantum link is said to be virtually “un-hackable” is because it relies on single particles of light (photons) to transmit data encryption 'keys' across the fibre. If this exchange was intercepted, the sender would know the link had been tampered with and the stolen photons could not be used as part of the key which would render the data stream incomprehensible to a hacker.

BT's Managing Director of Research & Innovation, Professor Tim Whitley praised the collaboration between business and academia, saying:

“With the huge growth in cyber-attacks across the UK, it’s more important than ever before that we continue to develop ways to protect the most critical data. BT has a long history of pioneering innovation so I’m delighted that we’re able to announce this major breakthrough in the field of quantum communications. This is a brilliant example of how academia and business can work together to develop ultra-secure networks to give us the confidence we need in our future digital economy.”

Image Credit: Ekaphon Maneechot / Shutterstock

Anthony Spadafora
After living and working in South Korea for seven years, Anthony now resides in Houston, Texas where he writes about a variety of technology topics for ITProPortal.