The German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) is planning a major initiative for a tap-proof quantum network in collaboration with the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, the Max Planck Society and the German Aerospace Center (DLR). German Federal Minister of Education and Research Anja Karliczek announced BMBF funding for the QuNET initiative. An initial grant of 25 million euros will fund research into how the laws of quantum physics can be applied to create secure communication networks.
Minister Anja Karliczek outlined the BMBF’s plans: “In the digital age, business and society are more dependent than ever on secure communication. Secure data lines are the lifelines of our age, which is why we have to make data transfer as tap-proof as possible. Quantum communications offers unique opportunities to do this. Germany and Europe must develop their own competencies in this area in order not to become dependent on others. This is why we need to advance research in this field. Germany and Europe should become the most trustworthy data space in the world, which is why I will be putting this topic on the German and European agenda. The idea behind the QuNET initiative is for leading German researchers and companies to join forces to lay the foundations for secure communication in the future. I am grateful to the participants in this unique project for their dedicated efforts in this future-oriented field.”
QuNET’s goal is to enable governmental organizations to communicate securely. The seven-year project is also designed to serve as a central platform for establishing a German quantum communications infrastructure and represents a groundbreaking step toward the development of a quantum internet. At the European level, the German federal government and the QuNET consortium partners are aiming to create a secure European data space.
Challenges for quantum communications
To confront this challenge, the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Optics and Precision Engineering IOF (Jena) and the Fraunhofer Institute for Telecommunications, Heinrich Hertz Institute, HHI (Berlin) have joined forces with the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light (Erlangen). Industry partners from telecommunications, system and component development, security and satellite operations are also participating in the project, including companies such as Deutsche Telekom AG, ADVA Optical Networking and Tesat-Spacecom. The heavy involvement of German industry is intended to ensure rapid transfer of the solutions developed in the QuNET project.
Fraunhofer President Professor Reimund Neugebauer explained the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft’s strategy: “QuNET is an opportunity to work side by side with outstanding partners from research, business and government to lay the foundations for developing a uniform and secure European information and communication infrastructure. This project will further boost Germany’s pioneering role and technology leadership in this strategically important area. In the long term, we plan to connect the quantum-based communication infrastructure with International Data Spaces in order to unite data sovereignty and data security at the highest levels in the European data space.”
New opportunities for a digital society
The initiative is being launched in the face of the growing capabilities of digital technologies that are impacting today’s data networks and posing an increasing threat to the security of our modern information-based society. This requires many organizations to rethink and revise their security infrastructures, in particular government agencies, banks and businesses that play a critical security role.
Professor Andreas Tünnermann, director of the Fraunhofer IOF and initiator of the QuNET project, explains the benefits: “The initiative will generate synergies by combining the complementary skills of top-tier German research institutes in the area of quantum communications. The project strategically addresses the development of new heterogeneous quantum communication networks that will enable multi-user operations. QuNET will thus make an important contribution to providing physically secure communications in Germany and Europe.” In addition, Professor Gerd Leuchs, director emeritus of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light highlighted the technical potential of optical quantum communication: “One of the characteristics of quantum measurements is that they only ever reveal part of the existing information, and never all of it. This paves the way for exciting applications ranging from the perfect random number generator to the detection of eavesdroppers. Both are important for secure communication.”
The project, which has been divided into three phases, will officially begin in the fall of 2019. First, the researchers will develop the hardware components; then, in the second phase, they will formulate the technological foundations of multi-user operations in heterogeneous networks. In the third phase, they will collaborate with industry and the German federal network operators to implement the quantum technology-based network for government agencies.