Chinese chip firm provides SIM cards supporting quantum secure calls
Published: Jan 06, 2021 03:38 PM

Workers from China Telecom install mini 5G base stations at a telephone booth in Shanghai on Friday. The company is expected to install similar 5G equipment in more than 100 telephone booths by the end of the year. China is investing billions of yuan in the field. Photo: AFP

Chinese integrated circuit chip product and solution provider Guoxin Micro confirmed with Global Times on Wednesday that it has begun to supply customized SIM cards in batches which support quantum-encrypted calls.

SIM, short for subscriber identity module, is a piece of plastic that slots into the smartphone that acts as a unique ID, so that the phone can be connected to a mobile network.

If users need to apply for quantum secure call services, they can bring their ID card to local office, replace the customized quantum secure call SIM card, download an app, China Telecom told the Global Times on Wednesday.

The whole process does not require a change in phone number or the phone itself. During each call, users can choose whether they will make normal calls or quantum secure calls, the network operator said.

China Telecom has recently rolled out the country's first quantum secure call product facing the civilian market and the product has been put into trial operation in East China's Anhui Province. The carrier is now recruiting users who would like to experience the new service in the province. 

The major feature of making phone calls based on the quantum technology is a higher level of security due to the randomness in distributing keys.

Each time a user initiates the quantum secret call, the call will randomly extract a quantum key in the chip to establish a connection with the background and verify identity information. After the authentication is passed, a new key is generated in real time as the session key for authentication. The key is separated from the session key and discarded after usage.

In November last year, China Telecom announced its project in the quantum security sector, aiming to provide quantum security encryption solutions for 10,000 government and enterprise customers, and quantum security call services for more than 10 million mobile terminal users.

The launch of quantum secure calls serves as a crucial step for promoting the civilization process of quantum communication, analysts said.

In the short term, the user groups of quantum secure communication products are mainly focused on government affairs, military, finance, large and medium enterprises, but with the average users' awareness of personal privacy and information security improves, demand will also be stoked in the mass market.

China will include quantum technology as one of the technological advances in its 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25), striving to gain first-mover advantages, a senior official with the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST) said at a press briefing in October.

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