BT opens 125km Quantum test link to University of Cambridge

BT says the opening of the world’s first “commercial-grade” Quantum test network link will accelerate UK testing and development of Quantum technologies.

The UK Ultra-Secure Quantum Network Link (UKQNTEL) connects BT’s Adastral Park R&D facility in Suffolk and the University of Cambridge and links to the wider UK Quantum Network (UKQN) – a collaboration between industry and academia.

“This new network represents a major step forward for the UK National Quantum Technologies Programme, providing a direct link between research and industry, and an opportunity to develop new applications and services,” declared Tim Spiller, director of the Quantum Communications Hub.

Quantum leap

Whereas classical computing architectures store information in binary (1 or 0) bits, Quantum computing uses subatomic particles’ ability to exist in multiple states at the same time. This means Quantum computers can store significantly more information and compute issues much more quickly.

This has huge implications for the financial, military and healthcare sectors among others, with research as it can expediate research projects. However, this increase in computing power is tempered by fears that it could render most encryption measures obsolete.

The UKQNTEL will allow for the testing of Quantum computing applications while also ensuring data is secure.

The link uses 125km of standard BT optical fibre with BT Exchanges acting as trusted nodes along the route, carrying both Quantum and non-Quantum traffic. The use of Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) means encryption keys are shared using an ultra-secure quantum channel over the same fibre that encrypts the data itself.

“The first ever commercial grade, quantum network link between Suffolk and Cambridge is an important step in protecting the UK from cyber threats,” added Chris Skidmore, universities Minister. “The success of our modern Industrial Strategy depends on us maintaining the UK as a hotbed of innovation.

“We have identified AI and Data as a Grand Challenge to ensure we build on our world-leading reputation in harnessing new technologies, which we will achieve in quantum technology through continued collaboration between industry, government and the National Quantum Technologies Programme.”

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