With the European Quantum Communication Infrastructure (EuroQCI) Initiative, the EU is creating a pan-European network of quantum communication infrastructures. The EuroQCI will safeguard sensitive data and critical infrastructures by integrating quantum-based systems and technologies into existing communication infrastructures, providing an additional security layer based on quantum physics. It will reinforce the protection of Europe’s governmental institutions, their data centres, hospitals, energy grids, and more, becoming one of the main pillars of the EU’s Cybersecurity Strategy for the coming decades.
The EuroQCI initiative is also linked with the European Quantum Computing & Simulation Infrastructure (EuroQCS) initiative and the European quantum sensing and metrology (EuroQSM) initiative, that focus on quantum computing and quantum simulation and measurement infrastructures. This combined system of EuroQCI, EuroQCS and EuroQSM research infrastructures will provide a comprehensive environment for quantum technologies development and integration.
This will be achieved by incorporating systems and technologies based on the principles of quantum technology, by the distribution of quantum keys (QKD) to existing communication infrastructures, which will offer an exceptionally secure form of encryption, offering an extra layer of security. Quantum encryption systems offer state-of-the-art security, as far as data protection is concerned, by using QKD technology.
EuroQCI, which will be composed of a terrestrial segment relying on fibre communication networks linking strategic sites at national and cross-border level, and a space segment based on satellites. It will be an integral part of IRIS², the new EU space-based secure communication system. EuroQCI will thus contribute to European digital sovereignty and industrial competitiveness and help to meet Europe’s Digital Decade target of being at the cutting edge of quantum capabilities by 2030.
At TNC23, Dr. Ilias Papastamatiou from GRNET, Greece’s NREN and coordinator of the HellasQCI project (Greece’s National Quantum Communication Infrastructure (QCI) project) and Piotr Rydlichowski from PSNC, Poland’s NREN and coordinator of the PIONIER-Q project (Poland’s National QCI project), participated at the “Quantum: beyond the crypto techbros session”, and presented the “Quantum Internet Activities in European NRENs”.
NREN Collaboration at the Heart of the EuroQCI: HellasQCI, PIONIER-Q and Beyond
The presentation and the fruitful discussions that followed demonstrated the advantages of the NRENs collaboration in this new and evolving domain of quantum communication technologies.
GÉANT’s NREN community through its long standing collaboration, the GN5-1 project, and the GÉANT Quantum Strategy Group concretely facilitate the cooperation and the synergies between numerous NRENs that coordinate and participate in their national efforts to build their National Quantum Communication Infrastructures (NatQCIs) such as GRNET (Greece, HellasQCI), PSNC (Poland, PIONIER-Q), HEAnet (Ireland, IrelandQCI), CARNET (Croatia, CroQCI), RoEduNet (Romania, RoNaQCI), CESNET (Czechia, CZQCI), SURF (The Netherlands, QCINed), BELNET (Belgium, BE-QCI), CYNET (Cyprus, CYQCI), KIFU (Hungary, QCIHungary) and other NRENs that participate indirectly at their National QCIs as partners. The exchange of expertise and the collaboration of the NRENs are essential for creating a secure and operational EuroQCI. In the next two sections we describe examples for QCI proposals and activities from GRNET and PSNC.
GRNET S.A. – The National Infrastructures for Research and Technology, operating under the auspices of the Greek Ministry of Digital Governance, is the coordinator of the HellasQCI project. HellasQCI aims to deploy advanced National Quantum Communication systems and networks in Greece.
Its architecture comprises of three metropolitan test sites located at major cities of Greece namely: ΗellasQCI-Central (Athens), HellasQCI-North (Thessaloniki) and HellasQCI-South (Heraklion-Crete). Each test-site is divided into Governmental and Industrial testbeds, which allow the project to investigate the field deployment of QKD technologies in a plethora of realistic scenarios and use cases addressing National Security, Public Health, Critical Infrastructures, and ICT sector. An additional Educational testbed will allow the development of new quantum technologies, enhance SME innovation, and offer Greece a futureproof pathway towards Quantum Internet. It will also serve as a comprehensive training environment for technical, research staff, and end users.
For inter-test-site links and international connection with other EuroQCI members, HellasQCI will exploit three Greek Observatories, which constitute national assets and have been selected by ESA to be upgraded as Optical Ground Stations with QKD capabilities. The HellasQCI consortium involves key research institutes and universities of Greece, which are able to address the needs for an operational HellasQCI infrastructure. HellasQCI cooperates with other EU Member States in order to boost Europe’s scientific and technological capabilities in cybersecurity and quantum technologies, and to this end, it has already partnered with several NRENs and countries such as Poland, Ireland, Austria, Luxembourg, Malta, Bulgaria, Romania and Cyprus.
HellasQCI will provide a holistic training environment for technical, research and end-user staff in order for the country to be ready for the operational phase of the EuroQCI. In addition, among the project’s aims, HellasQCI will establish a national quantum ecosystem from all relevant stakeholders that can benefit and support the HellasQCI networks, gather expertise and share knowhow on quantum communication technologies that can be applied in practical and sustainable use cases. This national quantum ecosystem will ensure the better participation of the country to the EuroQCI initiative and facilitate the future expansions of the HellasQCI networks into more end-users.
GRNET’s CEO Dr. Aristeidis Sotiropoulos: “It is a great honour that the Ministry of Digital Governance entrusted GRNET to coordinate the HellasQCI project to build the National Quantum Communication Infrastructure of Greece. This important project will pave the way for upgrading the cybersecurity of network communications both at National and European level. The creation of this quantum infrastructure, combined with other initiatives will create a secure network for ground and satellite communications, ensuring the highest possible level of security in all government and private sector communications.
GRNET has a major role in all European cloud/service infrastructures such as EOSC, EUDAT, EGI, GÉANT, PRACE and EuroHPC and we are proud to implement this new quantum communication infrastructure. The project started in January 2023, and has already demonstrated the exchange of the highest level of expertise and collaboration amongst the National Partners, European NRENs community and GÉANT, in order to create a secure and operational EuroQCI”.
The PIONIER-Q project is a QCI proposal prepared by the Polish community and is coordinated by PSNC. The partners of PIONIER-Q are all HPC centres in Poland that are also part of the PIONIER consortium of Polish National Research and Education Network. The main goal of the project is to:
- build the QCI network based on PIONIER network infrastructure and services
- implement a number of use cases and scenarios
- provide research platform for the community
- organise training and workshops
- cooperate with other QCI projects
- integrate with EuroQCS-Poland project infrastructure.
PIONIER-Q will use existing QKD infrastructure that was implemented by PSNC under the OPENQKD project and NLPQT project (National Laboratory for Photonics and Quantum Technologies) where PSNC established local, metro QKD infrastructure in POMZAN network and long-distance Poznan – Warsaw QKD link of 380km (5 trusted nodes).
PIONIER-Q aims to connect not only QCI and Quantum Computing activities but also reference time and frequency transmission system that uses optical carrier technology and are developed under the NLPQT project.
Proposed PIONIER-Q use cases connect various applications and services from the public sector to achieve synergy in terms of infrastructure security. HPC centres that are part of the PIONIER-Q consortium have a wide range of different existing services and in a natural way can provide multiple scenarios not only for EuroQCI infrastructure but also EuroQCS infrastructure. The whole EuroQc and EuroQCS infrastructure will be managed, operated and monitored by PSNC using its existing infrastructure and also by specially developed tools and services.