France has assembled a consortium of tech firms, researchers – and one telco – to kick off its deployment of quantum networks.

Nick Wood

April 19, 2023

3 Min Read
Orange to coordinate French quantum comms effort
2AX2GPM Futuristic green quantum computing CPU processor concept. 3D illustration

France has assembled a consortium of tech firms, researchers – and one telco – to kick off its deployment of quantum networks.

The programme, called FranceQCI (Quantum Communication Infrastructure) falls under the umbrella of the European Union’s EuroQCI, which is co-funding individual member states’ projects and generally managing the whole thing. The aim is to ensure that critical communications between strategically important sites across the continent – like government agencies and financial centres – is safe from hacking. The EuroQCI effort covers both terrestrial and non-terrestrial network infrastructure.

The reason for all this fuss is because today’s network security simply won’t be up to snuff once the age of widespread quantum computing dawns. The general understanding is that a quantum processor would have no trouble hacking into encrypted comms and harvesting top-secret information. Upgrading network defences with new quantum security technology – like quantum key distribution (QKD) – is therefore essential. This is what EuroQCI and the various country-level programmes is all about.

The FranceQCI consortium is a motley collection of industrial giants, quantum tech specialists and researchers.

As well as Orange, the big names in the club are Airbus Defence and Space, Thales, and Thales Alenia Space. They are joined by Cryptonext Security, VeriQloud, and WeLinQ – three smaller companies focused on quantum communication and post-quantum cryptography. Meanwhile, the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), Sorbonne University, Université Côte d’Azur and engineering research and training institution Télécom Paris will offer their expertise and research capabilities.

In addition, France’s civil aviation authority, DSNA, has joined in order to facilitate the testing of real-world use cases, presumably pertaining to the non-terrestrial element of FranceQCI.

Orange, with its experience of network deployment and integration, has been selected to coordinate the group’s efforts.

“The FranceQCI consortium’s objective is to drive a significant impulse towards a European quantum communication infrastructure that will be able to safeguard sensitive data and critical communications for governmental institutions, data centres, hospitals, energy grids, and more. We are delighted to benefit from funding from the European Union through the Digital Europe Programme to contribute to one of the main pillars of the EU’s cybersecurity strategy,” said Michaël Trabbia, CEO of Orange Wholesale, and interim group chief technology and innovation officer, in a statement.

As with a lot of EU projects, it has taken quite a while for EuroQCI to get to this point. It was launched in 2019 as a separate programme – for reasons that are hard to fathom – to Quantum Flagship, the EU’s 10-year quantum research initiative. By December 2021, EuroQCI had a blueprint for what a quantum-secure network should look like. This February, German incumbent Deutsche Telekom was chosen to head up Petrus, the coordinating organisation that acts as a link between all the EuroQCI projects – like FranceQCI – and facilitates collaboration and identifies areas where there might be a need for new standards.

Meanwhile, here in the UK, BT last week discussed its plan to capitalise on quantum technology, from a cybersecurity perspective, as well as how its own networks and enterprise customers can benefit from the power of quantum processing.


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About the Author(s)

Nick Wood

Nick is a freelancer who has covered the global telecoms industry for more than 15 years. Areas of expertise include operator strategies; M&As; and emerging technologies, among others. As a freelancer, Nick has contributed news and features for many well-known industry publications. Before that, he wrote daily news and regular features as deputy editor of Total Telecom. He has a first-class honours degree in journalism from the University of Westminster.

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