ETSI ISG makes ‘Light Speed' progress in standardization of Quantum Key Distribution (QKD)

ETSI  ERCIM Headquarters, Sophia Antipolis, France - 11th December 2008

Unbreakable encryption moving at ‘light speed' from Research to Standardisation with focus on Quantum Key Distribution.

It was only about one year ago that ERCIM (the European Research Consortium for Informatics and Mathematics) and ETSI (the ICT standards organisation in Europe with global reach) celebrated the signature of their Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) by participating in a common event, where future and emerging technologies were presented. Issues like the phenomenon of entangled photons, which can be used to transport information in an absolutely secure way, took some of the audience quite by surprise.

However, there are already applications in the field, which partly use this ‘spooky appearance at a distance', as Albert Einstein called it in 1935, in order to provide unconditionally secure transmission. One of these applications is a cryptographic primitive, called Quantum Key Distribution (QKD), which is already mature enough so that several companies offer off-the-shelf products, which can be added into existing networks.
The standardisation of QKD was recently kicked-off during a demonstration of the EU-funded SECOQC project in Vienna, where it was very successfully proved that various QKD systems are perfectly operable. Thanks to the Austrian Research Centres (ARC), who are members of both ERCIM and ETSI, QKD was moved from research to standardisation.

First success in standardisation was already achieved during the kick-off meeting of the ETSI Industry Specification Group (ISG) on QKD last October, when 6 Work Items were approved in less than 1 hour. During their 2nd meeting (8-10 December 2008), this Group kept up with their incredible light-speed-like work: They developed and fully completed the workplan for their Specialist Task Force (financed by the European Commission). This Specialist Task Force will consist of experts from various countries incl. from Canada; even classical cryptographers will be involved. The ISG also identified a need for several more Work Items, such as network related issues and testing.

QKD is the first proof that the MoU between ERCIM and ETSI helps their members to successfully transfer research projects via standardisation to become real-life market products.

For further information about the QKD activity, contact: Gaby Lenhart, Senior Research Officer, at

Notes for Editors

ETSI produces globally-applicable standards for Information and Communications Technologies (ICT), including fixed, mobile, radio, converged, broadcast and internet technologies and is officially recognized by the European Commission as a European Standards Organization. ETSI is a not-for-profit organization whose 700 ETSI member organizations benefit from direct participation and are drawn from 62 countries across 5 continents worldwide.
For more information please visit:

ercim01About ERCIM
The European Research Consortium for Informatics and Mathematics, or ERCIM, aims to foster collaborative work within the European research community in ICT and Applied Mathematics, to advise the European Commission and national governments, and to increase co-operation with European industry.
As a European Economic Interest Grouping, ERCIM links the resources of its members to create a force of over 12000 researchers. Leading research institutes from twenty European countries are members of ERCIM. The World Wide Web Consortium, or W3C, is hosted in Europe by ERCIM.
For more information about ERCIM, please visit:

The vision of SECOQC is 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.
For further information on SECOQC, please visit:

For general press enquiries for ETSI and ERCIM:

Paul Reid
ETSI Press Officer
Tel:  +33 (0)6 85 76 89 74 
Catherine Marchand
ERCIM Communications Manager
Tel:  +33 (0)6 12 21 23 30