In late 2021, the European Commission launched a call to establish a national quantum communications infrastructure for each Member State. In Belgium, a consortium consisting of several partners, including Belnet, will take charge of rolling out a quantum network.
Quantum technology will be used to innovatively communicate cryptographic keys securely between senders and receivers. Potential end users of the technology are therefore organisations where a high level of security is required: banks, research centres, government departments, etc. Finding and setting up suitable use cases for quantum communications is part of the project, which was named 'BE-QCI'.
6 million is to be allocated for BE-QCI. Half of that budget is being funded by the EU, while the other half is national funding from the Federal Science Policy (Belspo).
BE-QCI is being coordinated by IMEC, the research centre for nano-electronics and digital technology. In addition, a great many partners from the R&E sector and industry are joining forces in a consortium specifically created for the project. Each of them will share their expertise and contribute to the project. BE-QCI is currently in the start-up phase and will last for 30 months.
Belnet will immediately have a major role to play in the initial phase. Indeed, Belnet is taking on the roll-out of a separate dedicated infrastructure: the fibre-optic connections in Belgium and the necessary quantum network equipment (QKD). This includes designing and managing the quantum communication network, as well as making it operational.
Better cyber security in Europe
The project is part of a larger effort, funded by the European Union, to establish a Europe-wide quantum communications infrastructure (EuroQCI).
The aim is to eventually interconnect all the national quantum communication networks across the EU, thus better protecting sensitive data and critical infrastructures across Europe. EuroQCI thus constitutes one of the main pillars of the EU's new cyber security strategy for the coming decades.