ETSI sets new standards for trust in communication security

ETSI Headquarters, Sophia Antipolis, France - 28 July 2008

It sounds like science fiction, but quantum cryptography will bring new levels of confidentiality and privacy of communication in the future ICT world and thus become the driver for the success of numerous services in the fields of e-government, e-commerce, e-health, transmission of biometric data, intelligent transport systems and many others. Due to the astonishing effects of quantum physics, quantum encrypted messages are totally immune from eavesdropping.

ETSI's newly launched Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) initiative is aimed at successfully transferring quantum cryptography out of the controlled and trusted environment of experimental laboratories into the real world, where business requirements, malevolent attackers, and societal and legal norms have to be respected.

A number of industrial players, both ETSI members and non-members, have already heavily invested in QKD R&D as part of projects under the umbrella of the European Union's Framework Programs 6 and 7.  The FP6 SECOQC project, for example, is the leading European research activity on QKD. It has more than 10 ETSI members or applicant members as partners, most of whom are behind the establishment of a QKD Industry Specification Group (ISG) at ETSI http://www.etsi.org/WebSite/NewsandEvents/ISG_QKD.aspx .

Many countries outside Europe have already made efforts to kick-off national standardization for quantum technologies. Some companies in those countries are even aiming for de facto standards, organising workshops promoting their solutions. However, so far none of these initiatives has moved beyond the identification of a need for standardization.  ETSI's creation of the QKD group is a strategic response to the increasing interest in standardization for quantum key distribution, as there is now a critical mass of interested parties in Europe.

Membership of the QKD group is open to ETSI members and other companies who have signed the ISG Agreement. An important goal of this activity is to bring the developing scientists and prospective commercial users together to allow them to learn from each other what the technology is able to deliver and what is needed for practical application. Standardization of a reference model for business application will be essential for the market uptake of QKD, because perfectly secure communication, as can be achieved with quantum cryptography, is clearly at odds with today's trend towards all-embracing surveillance.

Dr. Walter Weigel, ETSI's Director General welcomed the creation of the group and remarked: 'This new initiative moves ETSI into exciting new technological realms. It also supports ETSI's ambition to broaden the participation in our high quality standardization work, by combining the resources and skills of major industrial players, with those of smaller start-up companies (in this case experts in the QKD field), as well as universities and research centres bringing their latest research results. ETSI welcomes this opportunity to be among the pioneers of QKD, which I am convinced opens the way to a bright future of quantum technologies.'

Notes for editors:

About Quantum Cryptography:
During recent years quantum cryptography has been the object of vivid activity and rapid progress, and it is now extending into a competitive industry with commercial products. Analysing the cryptographic implications of Quantum Key Distribution is a very complex task. It requires a combination of knowledge belonging to separate academic and industry communities, ranging from classical cryptography to fundamental quantum mechanics and network security.
Its power stems from the fact that quantum communication allows for a new primitive, which permits two parties to establish a secret key from a short pre-shared secret and a public exchange, something that was never possible with classical, non-quantum means.

About SECOQC:
The vision of SECOQC was to provide European citizens, companies and institutions with a tool that allows them to face with confidence the threats of future interception technologies, thus creating significant advantages for European economy. SECOQC provided the basis for long-range high security communication in a network regime that combines the entirely novel technology of quantum key distribution with solutions from classical computer science, network design and cryptography. The SECOQC project aimed at evolving quantum cryptography into an instrument that can be operated in an economic environment. The scientific and technological work carried out during the last decade has created a stable foundation for the realisation of the project but there were still essential tasks to be pursued and research issues to be solved.  For further details see http://www.secoqc.net

With the successful completion of the SECOQC Project, the first live demonstration of a working quantum key distribution (QKD) network will take place in Vienna, 8.-10.October 2008 in the framework of the SECOQC Demonstration and International Conference. Seven QKD-links will be combined in a novel quantum-backbone network physically deployed within a typical metropolitan area network to connect different company sites from SIEMENS Austria. Typical applications for QKD, to secure data traffic from telephony and video conferencing, will also be included in the demonstration.

Also included in the conference program is the kick-off of the ETSI Industry Specification Group on Quantum Cryptography and Quantum Technologies.

About ETSI Industry Specification Groups:
ETSI Industry Specification Groups (ISG) operate alongside the existing structure of technical committees and working groups, and supplement ETSI's conventional standards development process. They provide a mechanism for the speedy preparation of technical requirements or specifications for well-defined, specific issues, typically in response to a need expressed by a subset of the ETSI membership.