India’s RFP for quantum communications solutions likely driven by China’s advancements in QKD development, says GlobalData

Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) technology

The Indian Ministry of Defence (MOD) has recently issued a commercial Request For Proposal (RFP) to the domestic deep tech startup QNu Labs to procure an advanced communications solution based on Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) technology.

The MOD’s move is likely driven by concerns over the advancements made by its neighboring rival China in QKD technology in recent years, says GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.

According to GlobalData, the procurement of quantum computing solutions for the Indian armed forces from a domestic company is also part of the government’s measures to reduce dependance on foreign suppliers such as Russia, France and the US.

Tristan Sauer, Land Domain Analyst at GlobalData, comments: “India’s decision to invest in domestic quantum defense solutions for the defense sector is both a significant milestone and a tacit admission of concern over it’s position within the global quantum computing market. Indeed, the fact that MOD has selected QNu Labs to deliver what would arguably be the most technologically advanced piece of equipment in the Indian armed forces’ inventory illustrates growing trust in the national defense industry’s capabilities and expertise.”

Founded in 2016, QNu Labs has become the first company in India to develop quantum-based commercial cybersecurity solutions, which is emblematic of the industry’s innovative and transformative long-term potential, particularly within niche technological fields such as artificial intelligence (AI), quantum computing and machine learning.

QKD communications systems offer numerous benefits over conventional radiofrequency (RF) and satellite communications (SATCOM) systems which are currently employed by militaries widely. QKD communications systems create a pair of quantum-entangled security keys between two end points at up to 150km in distance in a terrestrial optical fiber infrastructure. This establishes a secure channel to create un-hackable encryption keys to protect critical voice, video and other communications data, whilst also providing accurate information on interception attempts and thus enhancing overall situational awareness. QKD technology also finds application in fusing high-density data to facilitate critical decision-making and increase the accuracy of communication at various command levels.

China is widely regarded as the current global leader in QKD communications technology, having most recently launched a quantum communications satellite on 27 July as part of an ongoing initiative by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to field a network of quantum-secured communications with global coverage.  The country has also reportedly built a quantum-cryptography network spanning over 4,600km, with four quantum metropolitan area networks connecting cities in remote locations in Western China.

Sauer concludes: “As tensions in the Asia-Pacific region continue to grow and Chinese military capabilities on show during the recent exercises near Taiwan, India understands that the long-term economic and strategic value of domestically produced quantum computing solutions may prove key in ensuring it’s national security.”