What is QKD?

With the rise of quantum technologies classical cryptography becomes outdated. Novel quantum computers enable to bypass the existing classical algorithms for data security, posing a task of finding new ways to protect valuable information.

In this light, a new field of quantum cryptography has emerged promising to counter the quantum threat with quantum means.

Quantum key distribution (QKD) enables two parties (Alice and Bob) to privately share a secret key. The key can be used to encrypt and decrypt messages. High reliability of QKD is ensured by the fundamental quantum laws. Practical implementations of QKD protocols typically employ light pulses to encode quantum states.


Despite its great security advantage, QKD has not yet achieved widespread use, commercialization or deployment due to cost, flexibility, and interoperability issues with existing classical telecommunications networks.
AUSTRO-Q addresses these shortcomings and aims to provide a foundation for the ubiquitous use of QKD in everyday security applications.
To achieve this, the project will target component improvements to increase system performance, modify system architecture to reduce capital costs and improve network operations.
AUSTRO-Q will develop a low-cost QKD system with receiver-heavy complexity and cost structure. In point-to-multipoint networks, the high-cost infrastructure is shared at the receiver side, while each user has its own small and compact transmitter.

To enable seamless operation of this QKD network and integration of the secure key with the classical encryption layer, AUSTRO-Q will develop software-defined network orchestration that controls the QKD devices, guarantees secure key distribution between all network nodes, and manages traffic encryption at the application layer.
AUSTRO-Q will evaluate the key rate and transmission distance improvements along with the low-cost QKD system.
Finally, an application scenario of inter-data center encryption will be demonstrated with the software-controlled QKD network.
The participation of the industrial partners Novarion Systems GmbH and X-Net Services GmbH ensures the commercial exploitation of the achieved results along the entire value chain for QKD. In view of the large investments made by Europe in quantum communication, this project is intended to lay the foundation for a QKD product from Austria.