GSMA, IBM, and Vodafone establish Post-Quantum Telco Network Taskforce

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The GSMA announced the establishment of the GSMA Post-Quantum Telco Network Taskforce, with IBM and Vodafone serving as the group’s inaugural members.

The GSMA Post-Quantum Telco Network Taskforce aims to assist in the definition of policy, regulation, and operator business procedures for increased telecommunications protection in a future with powerful quantum computing.

Unlike today’s computers, which use bits to calculate, quantum computers make use of the exponential power of quantum bits (qubits). This can be a convoluted, simultaneous mix of 1s and 0s, with the ability to tackle incredibly complex problems that even today’s most powerful supercomputers struggle to solve.

The GSMA Post-Quantum Telco Network Taskforce will assist in defining requirements, identifying dependencies, and developing a roadmap for implementing quantum-safe networking, thereby limiting the dangers associated with future, more powerful quantum computers. Without quantum-safe protections, critical information such as confidential company information and customer data could be compromised by attackers who capture current-day data for later decryption. According to the World Economic Forum, more than 20 billion digital gadgets will need to be upgraded or replaced in the next 10-20 years in order to employ new kinds of quantum-safe encrypted communication.

“The GSMA Taskforce’s goal is to bring together leading global communication services providers with experts from IBM, Vodafone and other operators and ecosystem partners to understand and implement quantum-safe technology. By working together to establish consistent policies, we can define quantum-safe approaches that protect critical infrastructure and customer data, complementing our ongoing security efforts to increase resiliency in future networks,” said Alex Sinclair, the GSMA’s Chief Technology Officer.

To meet the problems posed by advancing quantum technologies, the United States In July 2022, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) announced the selection of the first four post-quantum cryptographic algorithms to be standardised for cybersecurity in the quantum computer age. These techniques are intended to safeguard today’s systems and data against future quantum computers by relying on the computational difficulties of issues from the mathematical domains of lattices, isogenies, hash functions, and multivariate equations.

Three of the four post-quantum algorithms that NIST has selected were developed by IBM, a pioneer in quantum technology and a leader in cryptography. IBM has the largest fleet of cloud-accessible quantum computers in the world.

“Given the accelerated advancements of quantum computing, data and systems secured with today’s encryption could become insecure in a matter of years. IBM is pleased to work with the GSMA Post-Quantum Telco Network Taskforce members to prioritise the telco industry’s move to adopt quantum-safe technology,” said Scott Crowder, Vice President of IBM Quantum Adoption and Business Development.

IBM Global Industries General Manager Steve Canepa stated that the adoption of quantum-safe encryption in telecom will have an impact on all businesses and consumers because communications services and computing technologies are interconnected and serve as the foundation of all industries in the present Hybrid Cloud environment.

“This taskforce will support the telco industry by creating a roadmap to secure networks, devices and systems across the entire supply chain,” Canepa added. 

Luke Ibbetson, Head of R&D, Vodafone, said: “Quantum computing is by far the biggest revolution in computing since the 1950s, and most of it will have a positive impact on our industry and society as we move towards fully automated networks. It has the potential to solve highly complex optimisation challenges which may allow us to further fine-tune our networks for an even better customer experience.

“At the same time, future quantum computing could inherently undermine the cryptographic principles relied on today. That is why Vodafone is committed to working with the GSMA and other members of the GSMA Post-Quantum Telco Network Taskforce to protect and secure customer data with the timely adoption of quantum-resilient solutions, policies and standards,” he added.

To promote agreement and adoption in this new domain, the GSMA Post-Quantum Telco Network Taskforce will meet, and it will be focused on three areas:

  • Strategy – to incorporate quantum-safe capabilities into the technology, business operations, and security of telecom network operators.
  • Standardisation – to determine the requirements and common alignments for integrating quantum-safe capabilities into existing telco networks.
  • Policy – to provide advice on telco network public policy, legislation, and compliance, as well as to assure industry scale.


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