SKT Promotes Development of International Standards for Quantum-Safe Communication

  • At the ITU-T SG17 meeting held in Korea, SKT will work to develop standards for combined use of quantum key distribution and post-quantum cryptography technologies to achieve quantum-safe communication.

  • In cooperation with SK Broadband and ID Quantique, SKT is also making rapid progress in the development and commercialization of quantum cryptography technologies.

SKT (NYSE:SKM, “SKT”) today announced that it will promote the development of standards for quantum-safe communications at the International Telecommunication Union Telecommunication Standardization Sector (ITU-T) Study Group 17 (SG17)* meeting held at the Korea International Exhibition Center (KINTEX) from today to September 8, 2023.

*ITU-T SG 17 is a statutory group of the ITU-T concerned with security. It holds meetings held twice a year to develop international standards and technical reports on security.

At the meeting, the company will be leading efforts to develop standards for key management of hybrid approaches with quantum key distribution (QKD) and post-quantum cryptography (PQC), which it successfully proposed in the previous meeting held in the first half of this year.

This is aimed at reaching quantum-safe communications by combining the strength of QKD and PQC.

Quantum-safe communication refers to the use of technologies/methods that are resistant to attacks by quantum computers in order to keep information assets secure even after a large-scale quantum computer has been built.

Based on the characteristics of quantum mechanics, the QKD technology can guarantee information-theoretic security (or perfect security) for key exchanges. As a hardware-based technology, it requires operators to install physical key distribution device for each section.

PQC refers to cryptographic algorithms that are thought to be secure against quantum computer attacks. As it can be deployed via software upgrade, it offers high scalability.

SKT is currently studying a solution that manages QKD and PQC in an integrated manner. By connecting sections applied with QKD and those applied with PQC, the solution will be able to protect the entire communication chain against attacks by quantum computers. Also, a maximum level of security can be provided by applying both QKD and PQC to a particular section.

For instance, for communication from data center to smartphones, QKD can be applied to sections covered by the fixed-line network (i.e. data center - internet – central office – base station), whereas PQC can be applied to sections covered by wireless networks (i.e. base station – smartphones) to safeguard the end-to-end communication in an efficient manner.

Also, QKD can be used to safeguard data centers – e.g. between a data center that stores massive data and its backup data center, as well as public, defense and finance data centers where important and sensitive information is stored – and PQC can be employed to securely transmit such data via wireless communication.

Meanwhile, in addition to playing an active role in the development of international standards, SKT is also actively working to develop and commercialize quantum cryptography technologies. Together with SK Broadband and ID Quantique, the world leader in quantum-safe security solution, SKT is not only setting standards for the operation of quantum cryptography communication network built with equipment from different manufacturers at the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI), but has also successfully verified the related technology on the national test network.

In addition, for the first time in Korea, SKT commercialized PQC on virtual private networks (VPN) for countries including the U.S., Japan and Singapore, using algorithms that are highly likely to be adopted as international standards for PQC.

Based on its R&D efforts in quantum cryptography communication technology, the company successfully applied QKD to the Seoul-Daejeon section – the most data traffic-concentrated section in Korea – of its 5G and LTE networks in 2019. It has also won quantum cryptography communication projects in the global market such as the U.S., Europe, and Singapore.

“We are excited to lead the establishment of standards for next-generation security technologies that utilize the advantages of quantum key distribution and post-quantum cryptography technologies,” said Ha Min-yong, Chief Development Officer of SKT. “We will continue to make efforts to contribute to the growth of the global quantum cryptography market through active research and business.”

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