Dr Rajkumar Upadhyay, Chief Executive Officer, C-DOT

The Indian government has been playing a vital role in the development of telecom technologies and standards. To this end, the Centre for Development of Telematics (C-DOT), the government’s arm for developing telecom technologies, has been actively engaged in developing quantum communication solutions. It has developed quantum key distribution (QKD) and post-quantum cryptography (PQC) security solutions for communication. These have been demonstrated in a live network, and are currently in the process of being certified. At India’s first international Quantum Communication Conclave, organised by the Department of Communications, Dr Rajkumar Upadhyay, chief executive officer, C-DOT, discussed the trends in the quantum technology space, the initiatives undertaken by C-DOT, and the need for an industry-wide alliance to develop the technology. Edited excerpts from his address…

The quantum communications industry is currently where the semiconductor industry was in 1950. There is a lot of scope for us, as a country, to move forward and take the lead in developing this particular technology.

Quantum technology is not new. The idea emerged in 1900 with quantum theory. Then, around 1913, the first quantum revolution took place, and led to many applications. For example, lasers emerged from quantum theory by harnessing the pheno­menon called stimulated emission solar cell work, based on the photovoltaic effect, used by magnetic resonance imaging.

Now, we are looking at the second qu­antum revolution and a lot of technologies are emerging that will change our computational communication and sensory infrastructure in the coming years. This will lead to multiple use cases and new applications for quantum technologies.

Quantum technology has four verticals. The first is quantum computing, whi­ch will see the emergence of new kinds of computers with enormous power compa­red to classic computers. The second is qu­­antum sensing and metrology, which invol­ves ultra-sensitive electrical magnetic gravitational sensors. Third is quantum ma­terials, which include high density sto­rage devices, low-power devices and su­p­er­con­ductors. The fourth is quantum co­mmu­ni­cation, which has become very important. It concerns quantum key generation distribution, teleportation and quantum internet. Once these technologies develop, many new applications will emer­ge, such as those in defence and security. Further, quantum communication protocols will lead to rescue discovery, which will be used in the healthcare, manufacturing, energy, finance, and oil and gas sectors because of the increased computing power that quantum computers will provide.

A group of scientists, academicians and scientific bodies are working with the Uni­ted Nations (UN) and the UN Educa­tio­n­al, Scientific and Cultural Organisation to declare 2025 as the international year of qu­antum science. Today, many countries are investing in quantum technologies. Chi­na has pledged to invest $15 billion, while the Government of India has also an­nounced an investment of around $1 billion. India is also taking the lead in terms of start-ups developing applications based on the technology.

C-DOT is focusing on quantum communication. A key aspect of quantum communication is QKD, on which a lot of re­search is happening in India. We have de­veloped a system, while private sector start-ups are also developing QKD. A system designed by C-DOT has been installed for communication between Sanchar Bhawan and the National Informatics Centre. Si­milarly, we have developed a PQC system, which is yet to be standardised.

All industries, start-ups, research institutions, government bodies, etc., need to work together in a cohesive manner to de­velop safe quantum systems. To this end, we have set up a Quantum Alliance, which is very important. We request all researchers, industry partners and academics working in this area to come together and conduct re­search on quantum technology in a collaborative manner. Moreover, we can take the lead, and design and develop our own quantum protocols in India. We thus welcome the participation of all stakeholders in these efforts. If we join hands and conduct re­search together, we will be able to do a better job. Funding will not be an issue, as it will all be provided by C-DOT and Tele­com Technology Development Fund.

In sum, I will say that data security is very important. Given that new research is happening and going forward the current encrypted algorithms will no longer be valid, we also need to work together as a country and come up with solutions so that we not only protect our information system, but also export these technologies to the rest of the world.