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The first international quantum communication between three countries

The musical performance was securely transmitted from UL FMF to the screen in the G20 conference hall. (Photo: Personal archive)

Publish Date: 24.08.2021

Category: Interdisciplinary research, Our contribution to sustainable development goals

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On the occasion of the G20 meeting on the digital economy, the first international quantum communication between three countries was established at UL FMF. 

On Thursday, 5 August 2021, the first public demonstration of intergovernmental quantum communication between three countries – Italy, Slovenia and Croatia – took place during the G20 Digital Ministers’ meeting in Trieste. For the first time in history, a fully quantum encrypted transmission between nodes in three countries (in Trieste, Ljubljana and Rijeka) took place. The demonstration was presented by the Italian Minister of Economic Development Giancarlo Giorgetti. 

The demonstration was the first ever application of the quantum laws of nature outside science labs with the purpose of establishing fully secure communication between three countries. Due to their strategic location at the intersection of Europe’s major west-east and north-south communication routes, Ljubljana and Slovenia are seeing new opportunities emerge for the implementation and use of this new technology. The demonstration was particularly important in view of the future European Quantum Communication Infrastructure (EuroQCI) promoted by all EU member states and the European Commission with the support of the European Space Agency

Prof. Anton Ramšak, Dean of the Faculty of Mathematics and Physics at the University of Ljubljana, noted that quantum communication responds to the need for secure communications, which is a priority for all governments. Due to the special properties of quantum encryption keys, this technology will enable a previously unattainable level of security in communication. Quantum keys are sequences of random numbers that are generated remotely through the exchange of single photons – quanta of light. The exchange protocol is based on quantum mechanics, and if anyone tried to intercept the key, they would leave a trace that would allow those involved in the communication to detect the intrusion and take immediate action. In all other established technologies of information transfer, the transmitted key may be intercepted and copied without this being detected by either the sender or recipient. While the framework of quantum technology prevents this, its implementation is highly demanding, for which reason the use of quantum mechanics is only slowly being adopted a hundred years after the discovery of its laws.

The demonstration was carried out by physicists in three countries. In Ljubljana, it was led by Prof. Rainer Kaltenbaek from the University of Ljubljana’s Faculty of Mathematics and Physics, and Prof. Anton Ramšak, head of the ARRS research project ”Development of components for the establishment of a new European network for quantum communication”. In Zagreb, the experiment was carried out by physicists from the Ruđer Bošković Institute, and in Trieste by physicists from the University of Trieste’s Department of Physics and CNR. 

After the quantum key was generated and following the opening speeches by guests of honour, members of the saxophone quartet from the University of Ljubljana’s Academy of Music, led by Assoc. Prof. Miha Rogina, performed the “Tango virtuoso” by Thierry Escaich at UL FMF. The performance was transmitted using quantum cryptography to the G20 meeting at the Trieste Convention Centre, thus taking full advantage of the revolutionary technology of secure sound and image transmission.

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