JPMorgan Chase, Toshiba, and Ciena build the First Quantum Key Distribution Network

JPMorgan Chase, Toshiba, and Ciena's first demonstration of quantum key distribution securing a mission-critical blockchain application in the industry.
18 February 2022

(Photo by Michel Euler / POOL / AFP)

The quantum key distribution network secures the distribution of symmetric encryption keys using quantum physics. While the technology is still new, use cases for quantum key distribution are being developed around the world, especially in cybersecurity.

One of the potential use cases has been developed by JPMorgan Chase, Toshiba, and Ciena. The trio has demonstrated the full viability of a first-of-its-kind quantum key distribution network (QKD) for metropolitan areas, resistant to quantum computing attacks and capable of supporting 800 Gbps data rates for mission-critical applications under real-world environmental conditions.

According to a paper published, the research team studied the impact of realistic environmental factors on the quality of the quantum channel and used a QKD-secured optical channel to deploy and secure Liink by J.P. Morgan. This is the first demonstration of QKD securing a mission-critical blockchain application in the industry.

Under the leadership of JPMorgan Chase’s Future Lab for Applied Research and Engineering (FLARE) and Global Network Infrastructure teams, researchers from all three organizations collaborated to achieve the following notable results:

  • A QKD channel was multiplexed on the same fiber as ultra-high bandwidth 800 Gbps optical channels for the first time and used to provide keys for encryption of the data stream.
  • Co-existence of the quantum channel with two 800 Gbps and eight 100 Gbps channels was demonstrated for a 70km fiber, with a key rate sufficient to support up to 258 AES-256 encrypted channels at a key refresh rate of 1 key/sec.
  • Operation of QKD and the ten high-bandwidth channels was demonstrated for distances up to 100km.
  • The proof of concept network infrastructure relied on Toshiba’s Multiplexed QKD System, manufactured by Toshiba Europe at their Cambridge UK base, and Ciena’s Waveserver 5 platform, equipped with 800 Gbps optical-layer encryption and open APIs running over Ciena’s 6500 photonic solutions. The tests were conducted in JPMorgan Chase’s fiber-optic production simulation lab.

With security being paramount, Marco Pistoia, PhD, Distinguished Engineer and Head of the FLARE Research group at JPMorgan Chase said the work comes at an important time as they continue to prepare for the introduction of production-quality quantum computers, which will change the security landscape of technologies like blockchain and cryptocurrency in the foreseeable future.

“We are proud to be at the front-end of developing QKD technology for real-world applications while partnering with industry leaders in the field, such as Toshiba and Ciena,” said Pistoia.

At this time, QKD is the only solution that has been mathematically proven to defend against a potential quantum computing-based attack, with security guarantees based on the laws of quantum physics.

Steve Alexander, Chief Technology Officer, Ciena explained that with more sensitive information being distributed across fiber-optic networks every day, robust encryption is of vital importance. He added as the quantum computing era approaches, research and development advances will continue to ensure the confidentiality of critical data as it travels over the network.

“Ciena has always pushed the boundaries of what is achievable with innovative network technology. We were the first to achieve 200 Gbps encryption, then first to obtain 400 Gbps. Now we are the first to offer 800 Gbps encryption to the industry. Working with forward-thinking companies like JPMorgan Chase and Toshiba is critical as we continue to build networking solutions to be more secure and efficient in supporting our digital world,” commented Alexander.

“Based on the success of this project we now have a proven and tested method for defending against quantum attacks on blockchain,” added Yasushi Kawakura, Vice President and General Manager Digital Solutions Division, Toshiba America, Inc.

JPMorgan has been a proponent of blockchain technology for use in the financial system, and the bank launched its own digital currency called JPM Coin in 2019.