The European Commission is launching a tender for a study on a Quantum Communication Infrastructure (QCI). The QCI aims to boost European capabilities in quantum technologies, cybersecurity and industrial competitiveness. The requested study will have to provide the European Commission and Member States with a user needs assessment and comparative study of options for the overarching system architecture of the QCI, including the terrestrial and space segments.

The study should explore relevant use cases that a pan European QCI system could cover, from a public sector perspective in the following domains: 

  • Inter and intra EU government communications – Government communications and data require the highest level of security. Both the security of voice and data communications exchanges between governmental services in a Member States, between Member States and EU institutions, as well as the long-term secure storage and protection of sensitive government data against intercept-now-decrypt-later attacks must be considered.  
  • Data centres – Within QCI, a secured Data Centres (DC) Interconnection is composed of pairs of DCs that exchange data using quantum secured communications. More data centres can be interconnected, realising a so-called secured data lake. Deploying a secured DC interconnection at intra-metropolitan scale creates a secured ecosystem where independent operators can share their contents stored in different data centres, preserving the highest security level. Secured interconnection of DCs at longer distances (inter-metropolitan scale) ensures secured disaster recovery. Each DC would implement their storage using quantum keys. 
  •  Critical infrastructure – Cyber-attacks on European critical infrastructure are recognized as a European-level threat in the Network and Information Systems (NIS) Directive which identifies several essential services which are very critical for society and are potentially vulnerable to digital attack: energy, digital services, air transport, banks, water supply and healthcare. Priority sectors in the Critical Infrastructure Protection (CIP) Directive are energy and transport, including rail transport, that could also be considered for QCI. For all the infrastructure-related use cases, the QCI should guarantee the authentication of the entity requiring access, and the confidentiality and integrity of the data being exchanged and stored. 

The study should consider to which extent the above use cases and specific user requirements could also be relevant for covering use cases of a more commercial nature.

The contracting authority intends to award two contracts, provided that at least two tenders are compliant with the tender specifications and have reached the minimum thresholds set out for award criteria. Each of the two selected tender will be awarded a maximum of EUR 1 000 000 each.

The closing date of the call is 4 November 2019 at 15:00.

Study reference: SMART 2019/0086

More information can be found in the full tender specifications and all relevant documents are available on the dedicated eTendering webpage, the EU institutions' eProcurement platform. 

Background

Advancements in quantum computing are challenging the basis of Europe’s information security as they are likely to make today’s encryption standards obsolete in the coming decade(s). 

The European Commission and the Member States are thus developing a secure quantum communications infrastructure tailored first to their public administration needs, by integrating quantum cryptography and innovative and secure quantum products and systems into conventional communication infrastructures, therefore adding an additional layer of security using methods based on quantum physics.  A quantum communications infrastructure (QCI) spanning the whole of the European Union  is envisaged, consisting of an integrated terrestrial infrastructure based on fibre network and a space infrastructure based on satellites, called respectively the terrestrial and the space segment of the QCI.

The first service offered would be the distribution of quantum-secured encryption keys, called Quantum Key Distribution (QKD), followed in the longer term by other services such as digital signatures, authentication, and synchronisation of ultraprecise time signals.

In the long term, the infrastructure might evolve into a quantum internet, interconnecting quantum computers, simulators and sensors via quantum networks to distribute information and quantum resources securely all over Europe. 
 

Related documents: