Breakthrough research using quantum cryptography addresses security in 5G networks

A ground-breaking solution for securing future critical communications infrastructures, including emerging 5G networks.


Recent advances in software engineering and commodity computing advances have revolutionized the telecommunications industry in the past decade. Different kinds of network communications services are now virtualized and hosted in commodity computing servers. This is commonly referred to as ”Network Softwareisation”.

The move of critical network communication functions into software, distributed across the internet however, imposes significant security risk for telecommunications networks and specifically for 5G networks that rely entirely on such software architecture. Any malicious attempt to tamper with these virtualized network functions can potentially put the whole internet and its users at risk.

In a new study by the University of Bristol, scientists addressed this issue by demonstrating a ground-breaking solution for securing future critical communications infrastructures, including emerging 5G networks. The solution will enable 5G network operators to offer ultimately secure 5G services while guaranteeing ultra-low-latency and high-bandwidth communications. This is due to the novel combination of quantum and infrastructure virtualization technologies.

In reality, scientists have developed a new, fully programmable network virtualization platform by using quantum technologies for securing function virtualization and service orchestration.

This platform can operate cross multiple 5G operators’ networks (i.e. EE, O2, Vodafone etc.). It uses advanced and standard compliant virtualization technology for creating on-demand complex and collaborative 5G network services across operators’ domains while utilizing quantum cryptography and optical interconnection infrastructure to secure services and guarantee 5G Key Performance Indicators (3GPP KPIs).

Professor Reza Nejabati, Head of the HPN Research Group, said: “Hardware and software technologies reported in this paper can potentially revolutionize 5G networks. They empower network operators to leverage the flexibility and programmability offered by virtualization technology in order to create new types of internet services while taking advantages of transmission at the speed of light and also securing the system using quantum technology.”

Professor Dimitra Simeonidou, Director of the Smart Internet Lab, added: “5G networks will transform communications, industry and society in the next decade. However, security is a key concern for 5G deployment and is expressed widely in global media. The University of Bristol has pioneered research on 5G and quantum for a number of years and more recently led a number of landmark demonstrations of 5G benefits. With this new work, we bring together our research strengths to provide an ultimate security solution for 5G networks.”

The work was carried out by the High-Performance Networks (HPN) Research Group at the University of Bristol’s Smart Internet Lab and following a competitive peer review selection process.

The findings are presented today (7 March) at a highly prestigious post-deadline paper in the Optical Fibre Communication Conference (OFC), San Diego, USA.

Other co-authors of the study include R. Nejabati, R. Wang, A. Bravalheri, A. Muqaddas, N. Uniyal, T. Diallo, R. Tessinari, R. .S. Guimaraes, S. Moazzeni, E. Hugues-Salas, G. T. Kanellos and D. Simeonidou, in Proc. OSA Optical Fibre Communication (OFC) Conference, PDP, San Diego, CA, USA.

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