Experiments with quantum communication devices and protocols are not new at CERN. In 2009, the Organization already took part in the SwissQuantum project, a public-private initiative to set up and operate over a long period of time a prototype quantum key distribution (QKD) layer.
Today, as part of the European Quantum Flagship initiative, a new project called openQKD is deploying the first nodes of a pan-European QKD network to develop and test technologies and protocols for secure communication. The CERN IT Department is currently hosting a node of the initial network mesh.
CERN plays an important role in regional and European Internet infrastructures at the physical layer. For example, it has hosted the CERN Internet eXchange Point (CIXP) [since 1996, and it has been a driving force behind the evolution of the regional internet infrastructure. The CIXP is a founding member of the European Internet Exchange Point Association (Euro-IX).
Taking part in technology investigations and supporting the deployment and operations of future QKD networks would not only be a natural extension of CERN current functions but would also ensure that CERN continues to play a central role in the future of European and international communication infrastructures.
The long-term goals in the field of Quantum Communication and Networks are to:
- Formalise CERN’s participation in the pan-European QKD infrastructure, providing operational and technical support.
- Identify and support pilot projects exploiting the QKD infrastructure for specific uses, in collaboration with appropriate research and industry partners.