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KT, KIST succeed in one-to-many quantum encrypted communication

Lack of government support for quantum technology remains major hurdle against rivals

KT, KIST succeed in one-to-many quantum encrypted communication

Telecom company KT and the Korea Institute of Science and Technology said Monday that they had succeeded in sending one-to-many quantum encrypted communication on KT‘s commercial network.

KT employees test the one-to-many quantum encryption network at the company’s research lab in Seocho-gu, Seoul. (KT)
KT employees test the one-to-many quantum encryption network at the company’s research lab in Seocho-gu, Seoul. (KT)

The test was the first time that the company succeeded in one-to-many transmissions using quantum encryption. Last year, KT and KIST had set up a one-to-one test network using quantum encryption.

According to an official with KT, the success of the company in using KT’s commercial network, rather than an exclusive network for quantum encryption transmissions, represents a step closer to commercialization of quantum encryption.

“In addition, the possibility of one-to-many transmissions means that quantum encryption can be used much more economically, because it requires less devices than when we had just one-to-one transmission,” the official said.

Quantum cryptography, which uses the laws of quantum mechanics to create and transmit encryption keys, is more difficult to hack than traditional digital encryption. Rather than using mathematical models for encryption, quantum cryptography utilizes physics. Essentially, photons of light carry truly random encryption keys that are used only once. 

The technology is being noted as a major solution to the security concerns that are arising as more devices become interconnected and consumers provide more personal information for customized services.

Recently, SK Telecom utilized a quantum security module on its self-driving test cars to prevent outside hacking of communications between self-driving cars, or communications between self-driving cars and control centers. 

Since last year, KT and KIST have been working together to research and develop new advancements in this area. On Monday, they announced that they had launched the Eco Alliance, a group bringing together various players in the quantum cryptography field to work together to commercialize quantum encrypted transmissions. 

“We hope to build an ecosystem of companies, research institutes and government actors that can help to continue developing this technology for the future,” the KT official said. 

However, those in the industry point to a lack of support from the Korean government as a hurdle. Countries such as China and Japan are aggressively investing in quantum technology -- an area that is being likened to a 21st century space race. China announced last year that it is building a $10 billion research center for quantum applications, following its demonstration of the world‘s first video call made on quantum-encrypted communications. The Japanese government also plans to launch a quantum-encrypted satellite by 2022.

According to reports, there is no new R&D budget coming from the government in the field of quantum cryptography and communications, making it difficult for scientists here to acquire the equipment needed to develop advancements that will allow them to send quantum-encrypted transmissions over longer distances.

By Won Ho-jung (