BeQCI: first use cases for quantum links to start soon

Davina Luyten

Communications Officer @ Belnet
Wed, 03/20/2024 - 15:34

Jo Segaert, network engineer at Belnet and lead deployment of BeQCI, gives us an update on the project.

  • Back in April last year, we interviewed you about the BeQCI project. As a partner within the consortium, what has Belnet been working on in the interim?

"A major milestone was the purchase of the Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) equipment. These machines are central to establishing secure connections. 

We spent a lot of time last year drafting specifications, which were launched in May 2023. The intention was to select equipment sourced from various suppliers across Europe. This would allow us to test and compare different QKD systems.

After evaluating the bids, the Swiss company ID Quantique, Spanish LuxQuanta, Italian ThinkQuantum and Dutch supplier Q*Bird were selected. The latter's equipment will be delivered in May and will be crucial to the next phase of the project.

While testing the QKD boxes in our test lab at Belnet, we ran into some software bugs. Through decent collaboration with the suppliers, these have since been remedied. The boxes recently started generating cryptographic keys and are thus fully operational."

  • What is the next step?

"Now that the QKD equipment has been tested and validated, we are ready to install it in the field. First up will be the location in Redu, followed by Ghent and Brussels. 

Next, we will install two encryptors at each of the QKD connections. 

Then we can get started on the use cases, which will no doubt give us many new insights. Among others, Ghent University, CETIC and Belnet itself will test the connections. Because of the expertise we have built up on the equipment, we can properly support our end users and provide them with the necessary training on how to use the equipment."

  • In the second project phase, a longer-distance QKD link will be established. Can you say any more about that at this point?

"Yes, from June 2024, we will be establishing a connection between Redu and Luxembourg to test the technology over a longer distance. To that end, we are working closely with Lux4QCI and the University of Luxembourg.

That connection will be set up with Q*Bird's equipment. This is a star-shaped network that relies on MDI QKD (measurement-device-independent QKD). This is a new Quantum Key Distribution technique that allows multiple users to communicate securely with each other via a central node, even if the (measurement) hardware they are using has been tampered with."

  • Finally, what do you think the future of the quantum Internet looks like?

“In my view, the quantum Internet will become an indispensable addition to the 'regular' Internet as we know it today. I am convinced of its enormous potential – there is a range of applications that still seem like magic at the moment – but I am aware there is still a long way to go.

In any case, it is extremely exciting to participate in this innovative project and to be able to delve into the world of quantum communication and qubits."

Belnet will soon be hosting an information session about the BeQCI project and what potential this has over time for you as a Belnet customer.

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