The completion of the construction of a quantum communication line between Moscow and St. Petersburg was announced by the deputy general director of Transtelecom (a subsidiary of Russian Railways) Alexei Nozdrin at the Vedomosti conference Telecom 2021. “The network already exists, the equipment has been installed, and, in fact, the commissioning remains,” said Nozdrin. “In the second quarter, a launch should take place in the form of a transferred quantum key.”
The operator calls the main advantage of the quantum network the maximum security of the data transmitted over it. Transtelecom is counting on demand from financial organizations, law enforcement agencies and other state organizations. According to Nozdrin, the quantum network uses Russian-made equipment – he did not name its developer.
The world’s first quantum communication network was deployed in China earlier this year. The total length of this network reaches 4600 km: it consists of more than 700 optical segments and two space communication stations. More than 150 bank subscribers have already been connected to the Chinese quantum network.
Unlike conventional encryption algorithms, when generating quantum cryptographic keys, the sender and receiver use data on the change in the quantum state of photons. When you try to analyze and decrypt such a key, it changes – thanks to this, the recipients of the correspondence will instantly know about the hacking attempt. “Quantum encryption will make it possible to implement cryptography mechanisms at a completely new, previously unattainable level,” says Valery Andreev, Deputy General Director of IVK. – If an acceptable result is achieved during the Transtelecom project, it will become the beginning of a revolution in the information security market. Information protection will require new tools, new threat models, and a new regulatory framework. Provided, of course, that the use of new methods and tools is not associated with prohibitive financial costs – this will also be tested in the project. “
The construction of an 800-kilometer quantum network between Moscow and St. Petersburg is provided for by the roadmap for the development of quantum communications developed by Russian Railways and approved by the government in the summer of 2020. The cost of implementing the entire project – a quantum network of 10,000 km – by 2024 should amount to 16.7 billion rubles. (10 billion should be allocated from the federal budget, 6.7 billion from extra-budgetary sources, of which more than 5 billion rubles are ready to be allocated by Russian Railways itself). Most of these funds are 12.8 billion rubles. – should go to the construction of quantum backbone networks. By 2024, the volume of services provided on the network will reach about 55 billion rubles. – such calculations were previously given by Russian Railways. Among the scenarios for using quantum technologies, in addition to transferring data from banks and government agencies, the developers of the roadmap cited the construction of secure Internet of things systems and the management of unmanned trains.
“In terms of the development of the technological component of quantum key distribution, Russia practically does not lag behind other countries,” says Alexei Fedorov, head of the quantum information technology group at the Russian Quantum Center. “However, China is the leader in terms of implementation.” There are plans to use such lines for industrial applications in Europe, but so far the existing and developed prototypes are mostly used for research purposes, says Fedorov: “In the United States, they place a big stake not on the construction of quantum key distribution networks, but on the development of post-quantum algorithms – a new generation cryptographic algorithms that are more resistant to attacks. The US National Institute of Standards and Technology is standardizing post-quantum solutions. “
The largest competitor of Transtelecom, Rostelecom, is also involved in quantum communications, says Sergey Khanenkov, director of quantum communications projects at the company: “In 2020, the terms of reference for the creation of a quantum network between the Kalinin and Moscow data centers of the operator were developed and approved. corresponding design and survey work “. Within the framework of this project, the possibility of using the quantum network of Russian Railways under construction on the Moscow-Udomlya section is being considered, Khanenkov noted.
Quantum cryptography has commercial potential – it provides the highest degree of protection, which is important for government agencies and businesses, primarily the financial sector, says a representative of Rostelecom. According to Fedorov, the commercialization of quantum communication is still constrained by the lack of mass demand: “At the current, rather early stage of technology development, investments are needed in the creation and development of infrastructure for quantum key distribution – by analogy with how classical communication developed.”
The market for the new technology is not warmed up, and as long as potential users do not see the obvious advantages that it provides, their circle will be narrow, says Sergey Polovnikov, head of the Content-Review project: encryption. This, for example, is not a transition from a modem Internet to leased lines. ” It is also unclear how, in general, quantum technologies can increase the level of information security, Polovnikov argues: “It is known that 90% of data leaks are not due to intruders in the communication network, but due to the negligence of the personnel of companies and government agencies or their deliberate criminals. action “.
According to Fedorov, the roadmap for the development of quantum communications can stimulate the development of this market segment: “A similar thing happened in the second half of the 20th century. with the internet. Initially, it was thought of as a scientific tool, the monetization of which was not visible. But after government investments in network development and infrastructure creation, the business assessed the prospects of the new technology, which led to the creation of many successful commercial projects. “