Indian Army issues RFP for procurement of Quantum Key Distribution technology

The Ministry of Defence said the Indian Army has started the process of procurement of Quantum Key Distribution (QKD) technology developed by a Bengaluru-based cybersecurity company by issuing a commercial Request for Proposal (RFP).

QKD is primarily a mechanism to undertake secure communication with a cryptographic protocol involving various components of quantum mechanics. The technology enables two sides to come up with random secret keys shared by both and known exclusively to them, so only they can use it to encrypt and decrypt messages, thus achieving a very highly-secure communication. QKD helps create a non-hackable quantum channel for creating unhackable encryption keys that are used to encrypt critical data or voice or video across the end points.

The MoD said Sunday that under the umbrella of its initiative ‘Innovation for Defence Excellence’ (iDEX) under Defence Innovation Organisation (DIO), the QNu Labs, a Bengaluru-based cybersecurity start-up has broken distance barriers by innovating advanced secured communication through QKD systems. “The project was curated by iDEX-DIO with the Indian Army. After the successful trials, the Indian Army has now initiated the process of procurement of QKD systems developed by QNu Labs by issuing commercial Request For Proposal (RFP) and its deployment,” the MoD said in a press statement.

The ministry said that in the case of the system developed by the QNu, the quantum communication link was established over 150 kilometres in terrestrial optical fiber infrastructure.

“When the country is celebrating ‘Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav’, India is all set to join the league of global leaders with indigenous and more advanced quantum communication technology in order to equip its Armed Forces with high end defence,” the release added.

The Defence Secretary Dr Ajay Kumar termed the development of indigenously QKD technology as a milestone achievement in ‘Azadi Ka Amrit Kaal’ and a befitting success story of ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’, the press statement said. The Defence Secretary also applauded the efforts of the Department of Defence Production, Ministry of Defence, iDEX-DIO, Army Design Bureau and the Indian Army Signals Directorate, which have contributed in development of high end quantum technology in the country for the first time.

QNu Labs’ co-founder and CEO Sunil Gupta was quoted in the release as saying, “The vision of putting India on the forefront of deep technologies in the field of data security through the use of quantum technology has finally borne fruit. Winning the Open Challenge-2 of iDEX has provided a launching pad to QNu Labs to achieve this stellar success.”

Earlier in February, a joint team of experts from Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Delhi had demonstrated QKD link for over 100 kilometres. A similar demonstration was held over a shorter distance in the first week of December 2020, when the technology was tested for communication between two DRDO facilities in Hyderabad — Defence Research and Development Laboratory (DRDL) and Research Centre Imarat (RCI) — over a distance of 12 kilometres.

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