GSMA, IBM and Vodafone tackle challenge of quantum computing security

Quantum computing
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Global mobile industry body the GSMA is creating a ‘Post-Quantum Telco Network Taskfroce’ that will look to address the security of telecommunications networks as quantum computing develops.

IT giant IBM and mobile operator Vodafone have signed up as initial members of the group, which will define the requirement, identify dependencies and create a technological roadmap for quantum-safe networking standards.

“The GSMA Taskforce’s goal is to bring together leading global communication services providers with experts from IBM, Vodafone and other operators and ecosystem partners to understand and implement quantum-safe technology,” said Alex Sinclair, GSMA Chief Technology Officer.

Commercial network

“By working together to establish consistent policies, we can define quantum-safe approaches that protect critical infrastructure and customer data, complementing our ongoing security efforts to increase resiliency in future networks.”

Whereas classical computing architectures store information in binary (1 or 0) bits, quantum computing uses subatomic particles’ ability to exist in multiple states at the same time.

This means quantum computers can store significantly more information and compute issues much more quickly.

However, there are concerns that the technology could render industry standard encryption measures obsolete – something that could have huge implications for communications networks.

The technology industry has therefore shifted its attention towards the development of quantum-safe encrypted communications that mitigates the risk of cybercriminals stealing sensitive information that could be decrypted by quantum computers in the future.

The scale of the task at hand is illustrated by recent World Economic Forum estimates that more than 20 million devices will need to be upgraded or replaced within the next two decades.

“Quantum computing is by far the biggest revolution in computing since the 1950s, and most of it will have a positive impact on our industry and society as we move towards fully automated networks,” said Luke Ibbetson, head of R&D at Vodafone. “It has the potential to solve highly complex optimisation challenges which may allow us to further fine-tune our networks for an even better customer experience.

“At the same time, future quantum computing could inherently undermine the cryptographic principles relied on today. That is why Vodafone is committed to working with the GSMA and other members of the GSMA Post-Quantum Telco Network Taskforce to protect and secure customer data with the timely adoption of quantum-safe solutions, policies, and standards.”

Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.