Quantum-secure private 5G testbed opens in UK

A quantum-secure private 5G testbed that claims to protect against current and future cyber threats has opened in the UK, and is pitching for “customer engagement”. The project, which goes under the title Security Enhanced Virtualised Networking for 5G (SEViN-5G), is funded by Innovate UK, the UK government’s innovation agency. It uses a private cellular network from HPE’s Athonet division, on which London-based quantum encryption company Arqit Quantum and Belfast-based network security outfit Ampliphae have combined their solutions.

Arqit and Ampliphae said the project, which started in December, will deliver “enhanced quantum-safe security” for private 5G networks. The solution uses Ampliphae’s network security analytics technology and Arqit’s Symmetric Key Agreement Platform – which is flagged on the UK government’s digital marketplace as a platform-as-a-service that generates “symmetric encryption keys between end points”. Athonet has provided both the core network, hosted on AWS, and the radio access network (RAN), according to a statement.

The last point is not clear, however; a quote from Athonet says the 5G-SA gNodeB radios are from CableFree, a subsidiary of Oxford-based firm Wireless Excellence. Meanwhile, the Arqit quantum-security product hardens cybersecurity and reduces decryption threat for critical data in transit (“across untrusted infrastructure using symmetric keys”) and data at rest (“where symmetric keys need remote vaulting”) in IoT and 5G infrastructure. Further detail is scant, with little else from the government about the SEViN-5G project.

A statement declared: “Private 5G gives enterprises access to high-speed, massively scalable, and ultra-reliable wireless connectivity, allowing them to implement innovative IoT and mobile solutions that enhance productivity, drive automation, and improve customer engagement. The security of these networks will be paramount as they will support safety-critical infrastructure and carry highly sensitive data. But like any new technology, 5G comes with potential new threats and security risks including the threat from quantum computing.”

David Williams, founder, chairman and chief executive at Arqit, said: “Enterprises want to deploy private 5G networks with complete confidence that they will be safe from both current and future cyber threats including from quantum computers. Working alongside Ampliphae, we have shown that a quantum-safe private 5G network is deliverable using Arqit’s unique encryption technology.”

Trevor Graham, chief executive at Ampliphae, said: “Private 5G can be hosted partly or completely in the cloud, giving enterprises the opportunity to rapidly set up their own cellular networks customised to support their operations. With Ampliphae and Arqit they can now be certain that those private 5G networks are monitored and secure against eavesdropping and disruption.”

Nanda Menon, senior advisor at Hewlett Packard Enterprise, said: “In an era where security is paramount, the completion of the SEViN-5G project is a significant milestone. The delivery of a quantum-secure private 5G testbed, achieved where Athonet has combined the Athonet core with CableFree radios, underscores the commitment to innovation and reinforces the confidence enterprises can have in deploying networks that are both cutting-edge and secure from both present and future threats.”

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