ADVA has announced that Schleswig-Holstein Netz, one of northern Germany’s largest power grid operators, has successfully completed a field trial of quantum-secured data transport using the ADVA FSP 3000 platform with ConnectGuard™ Layer 1 encryption technology.
For the first time with a full commercial solution, a future-proof key exchange based on quantum key distribution (QKD) was used to encrypt data across overhead fiber cables. Until now, ensuring QKD performance in the harsh outdoor conditions of aerial fiber was thought to be a major barrier.
The trial shows how mission-critical utility networks can now counter the urgent threat of attacks from quantum computers. Technology from ADVA’s partner, the quantum cryptography company ID Quantique, also played a significant role generating QKD keys.
“The emergence of large quantum computers will jeopardize mission-critical networks like never before. That’s why we’re taking action now and trialing technology to safeguard power infrastructure for the long term. The success of our PoC with ADVA’s secure solution is a key breakthrough for protecting utility networks with QKD,” said Benjamin Merkt, CTO of Schleswig-Holstein Netz. “We’ve shown that grids like ours that use aerial fiber stretching across hundreds of kilometers can be protected against quantum-enabled hacking, even in adverse climactic conditions. It’s a major step towards guaranteeing the integrity and security of critical data in transit both today and in the post-quantum world.”
QKD offers a way to secure sensitive data transport against all forms of cyberattack, including from quantum computers that could render traditional public key cryptography useless. Distributing encryption keys in a quantum state ensures that any attempt to intercept traffic disturbs photons, introducing coding errors and alerting operators. But implementing the technology in power infrastructure is challenging as most utility communication networks are integrated with long-distance high-voltage overhead lines.
As QKD performance can be easily affected by environmental factors, stability was a key criterion in Schleswig-Holstein Netz’s trial, but the configuration proved to be stable and suitable for aerial fiber. The success of ADVA’s solution shows a way forward for quantum-secure utility networks.
“This PoC proves that QKD-based encryption is achievable in network architectures like this. Even with fiber optics integrated with 110kV overhead lines and unprotected from wind, solar radiation and thunderstorms, our solution was successful,” commented Helmut Griesser, director of advanced technology at ADVA. “Working closely with Schleswig-Holstein Netz and our partner ID Quantique, we’ve been able to demonstrate that QKD has a major role in safeguarding utilities. We’ve shown that our FSP 3000 ConnectGuard™ encryption has the power to protect our most sensitive and vital assets from cybercriminals even in the age of quantum computers.”
The PoC was performed as part of the OPENQKD project, which is supported by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program. The project creates several testbeds and demonstrates numerous use cases, laying the foundations of a pan-European quantum network.