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India demonstrates Quantum Key Distribution capabilities

India, for the first time, has demonstrated Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) links over a distance of more than 100 km, the Indian Ministry of Defence (MoD) has said.

According to a media release by the MoD on 23 February, this QKD capability was demonstrated between the cities of Prayagraj and Vindhyachal, both in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh.

The QKD trial was conducted by a team of scientists from the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Delhi. The MoD said that the trial was achieved by utilising commercial-grade optical fibre available in commercial sectors.

QKD is described as a key element in achieving quantum communications (QC) capability. It uses quantum particles for the exchange of cryptographic keys, which are necessary to decrypt data transmitted over traditional communications.

Dr Bhaskar Kanseri, associate professor in the Department of Physics in IIT Delhi, told Janes on 27 February that QC provides communication security for defence forces since it relies on principles of quantum mechanics, which ensure that “security is not dependent on the computational complexity”.

“The communication is unconditionally secure in theory,” Kanseri said.

“Such data security and key exchange/distribution is of high relevance [for defence forces] as any attempt of eavesdropping is noticed by the sender and receiver,” he added.

The Indian MoD said the performance parameters of its QKD trial have been measured and “have been found to be repetitively within the reported international standards at sifted key rates of up to 10 kHz”.

Kanseri said that QC is a “fast developing field” in India with “both free space and fibre-based QC activities” being pursued by Indian researchers.

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