Starting the journey to the Post Quantum Era

We live in a world where Quantum Computing offers great promise and is advancing rapidly. Researchers are working on improving electric vehicle batteries, drug discovery and risk assessment using Quantum Computers.

At the same time there is a risk that future cryptographically relevant Quantum Computers can break the security of the internet and mobile networks. The way to deal with this risk is by planning, and developing new security technology that is Quantum-safe.

Over the last 6 months, the mobile industry has come together to work on how we can safely transition to Quantum-Safe. Representatives of 35 GSMA members have contributed to the new Post Quantum Telco Network Impact Assessment Whitepaper, which is published today. This builds on the work done by NIST and the community in developing new Post-Quantum Cryptography, and looks at how it will affect telecoms.

The good news is that around the world planning for Post-Quantum Cryptography has started. Governments, and groups like the World Economic Forum are creating guidelines. The message all of them have in common is that now is the time for firms to plan and build skills. Once the NIST standards are published in 2024, the process of implementation can begin.

The GSMA White Paper recommends that the mobile industry prepares for the adoption of Post-Quantum Cryptography. There are some steps operators can take today, including thinking about how to build an inventory of all the places cryptography is used to secure the network and systems. Building the skills across the industry will be important and so will collaboration across industry, standards and open-source communities.

We don’t need to panic, but we do need to start detailed work now and the White Paper shows the way to do this. Anyone who wants to contribute is more than welcome to join the GSMA Task Force.

“The Taskforce has brought together operators and the wider telco ecosystem to prepare, as an industry, for the transition to post-quantum cryptography. The whitepaper provides an important starting point to begin preparation, mitigate risks and future-proof investments for the security of future networks,” said Lory Thorpe, Head of Telco Transformation Offerings for IBM Consulting and Chair of the PQTN TF.

Luke Ibbetson, Vodafone Group Head of R&D and Vice-Chair of the PQTN Task Force says “This industry-first whitepaper is an important step towards securing telco networks against future attack by quantum computers. The transition towards standards based post-quantum crypto algorithms will take time and has to start now.”