Cybersecurity company Arqit Limited has announced the formation of an international consortium of companies and government organisations to provide its quantum encryption technology to government customers in a federated system concept called Federated Quantum System (FQS).
The quantum encryption technology specialist made the announcement at the G7 Leaders Conference in Cornwall. The move will now see the UK, USA, Japan, Canada, Italy, Belgium and Austria represented in the system which was developed and launched in the UK with support from the UK Space Agency. Each country will share in the work of designing and testing the next system at a cost of £50m, then consider buying their own dedicated version, at a cost of £100m per system over 10 years.
System uses satellites to distribute quantum keys
The Federated Quantum System enables each Allied country to benefit from sovereign control of World leading technology. It also enables fighter jets, other military units and command and control centres from different countries to communicate securely on operations.
Arqit invented a system which uses satellites to distribute quantum keys to data centres. These keys are delivered using a new patented protocol called ARQ19, which solves the “Global versus Trustless” problem which previously prevented the adoption of Satellite Quantum Key Distribution (QKD). Arqit has also invented the QuantumCloud method to translate the benefits of this quantum key distribution to any form of endpoint or cloud machine without the need for any special hardware. The first version of QuantumCloud is set to launch for live service to commercial customers in 2021.
Government customers have more stringent requirements for control and are more inclined to buy “Private Instances” of cloud technology rather than managed services. Arqit has designed a different version of its technology to meet this need and has recruited a strong community of partners from allied countries to collaborate in bringing the FQS system to use. Arqit’s collaboration partners include BT, Sumitomo Corporation, Northrop Grumman, Leonardo, QinetiQ Space NV, qtlabs and Honeywell. Other Western Allied countries are expected to announce their inclusion during 2021.
Satellite set to be launched aboard Virgin Orbit
FQS has been developed with support from the UK Space Agency through its National Space Innovation Programme. The system consists of dedicated satellites, control systems and QuantumCloudTM software. It will be provided to the UK’s ‘Five Eyes’ allied governments and other international partners, allowing sovereign protection of strategic national assets and interoperability for joint operations.
The first FQS satellites will be integrated and tested at the National Satellite Test Facility in Harwell near Oxford and are expected to be launched on Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne from Newquay in Cornwall in 2023, after the launch of the first commercial Arqit satellites. The role of Virgin Orbit in providing responsive launch services for government customers from any location is in addition to the plan to deploy many FQS satellites to support the needs of a growing list of allied country partners.
Arqit’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, David Williams said: “FQS enables collaboration between NATO-allied governments around the world to form a federated version of QuantumCloudTM infrastructure. It also enables the Joint All Domain Command and Control vision to come to life. The FQS system is global in its nature, and there is now strong momentum in an international consortium joining forces to bring it into use.”
General Stephen Wilson, Director of Arqit Inc added: “For Allies working together Joint All Domain Command and Control (JADC2) is essential. For JADC2 to work, we must have a real identity, credentialing, and access management solution. Arqit’s technology makes trusted data security possible”.
Strengthening UK “resilience against harmful cyber-attacks”
UK Space Agency CEO, Graham Turnock added: “Space technologies have become embedded in almost every aspect of our daily lives, and UK Space Agency funding is accelerating our development as a world leader in space technology. Arqit’s advances in quantum technologies will strengthen the UK’s resilience against harmful cyber-attacks, helping us protect our critical services. The announcement today shows the attraction of Arqit’s model to our partners.”
Arqit was created in 2017 and funded largely by UK Government money. Last month, the company announced a merger with US listed Centricus in a proposed $400m fund raise which will value the business at $1.4bn, making it the latest UK tech ‘unicorn’. The company will keep its operational headquarters in the UK and create 2,000 high skilled UK jobs to scale the technology and business internationally.