Bulgarian National Plan Kick off Meeting in Sofia

The Mayor of Sofia, Ms. Yordanka Fandakova, and Centre of Competence QUASAR announced the launch of the Bulgaria’s National Plan for the construction of the first Quantum Communication Infrastructure in Bulgaria.

The host of the event was the National Coordinator of the project Center of Competence QUASAR, part of the Institute of Robotics by the Bulgarian Academy of Science.

Today, 10.02.2023, the construction of the first quantum communication network in Bulgaria, which is implemented within the framework of the European initiative EuroQCI, was officially launched. The initiative is aimed at building a single quantum communication network on the territory of the entire European Union, with which Brussels aims to guarantee Europe’s cyber security and communication sovereignty.

Modern computing capabilities of supercomputers and quantum computers make standard cyber defenses increasingly difficult. This is also confirmed by the unprecedented hybrid attacks in Europe that have become more frequent in recent years, affecting not only businesses, but also more and more so various state institutions. It is for this reason that in 2020 the European Commission launched the EuroQCI Initiative, in which all Member States of the European Union have signed to participate.

Each Member State should implement a national plan approved in advance by Brussels to build its quantum-communication networks, which will protect sensitive data and critical infrastructures, by integrating quantum-based systems into existing communication infrastructures. Subsequently, all networks in all Member States should be united in a single European network using interconnectors.

In Bulgaria, the construction of the infrastructure will be coordinated by the National Center for Quantum Communication QUASAR, part of the Institute of Robotics by the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences.

Within the next thirty months, the Center’s experts are to build two pilot quantum tracks. One of them is on the territory of the city of Sofia and will include the information arrays of the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Transport. The second route will be a 280 kilometers long link which will connect Sofia with Greece, through bringing the quantum network to the border crossing at Kulata.

This will be realized through the delivery of special quantum devices that will be placed within the existing optical networks of telecom operators and internet and communication service providers. Thus, an additional layer for cyber defence will be created, which will work on the principle of quantum cryptography. The technology is expensive and the matter is complex and innovative, which makes the benefits for the State even greater, as information security experts will have a unique chance to be trained in this new and cutting-edge technology, directly participating in the construction of the first urban quantum communication network.

“Quantum cryptography is a revolutionary, not just an innovative technology that uses the properties of quantum systems to generate secret keys. These secret keys are absolutely random and no information can be extracted from them. This is quite different from classical cryptography, where security is based on complex mathematical tasks, the solution of which takes a long time,” said Associate Professor Lachezar Georgiev, who is the representative of Bulgaria on the EuroQCI Board in the European Commission. “With quantum cryptography, breaking the codes is practically impossible, since security is guaranteed by the properties of quantum systems and the principles of quantum physics,” he added.

The Sofia Municipality, which is an associate partner under the National Plan, will designate its data centers to be included in the network, which will demonstrate how quantum cryptography works. A team of information security employees of the Municipality will have the opportunity to be trained completely free of charge and become part of the “National Center for Quantum Communication Network” of Bulgaria, which is to be structured during the implementation of the National Plan.

“I congratulate Center QUASAR, which will coordinate the National Plan of Bulgaria in this area of key importance for the security of our country. This is both a recognition and a responsibility and an opportunity for the Bulgarian scientific community to show its expertise,” said the Mayor of Sofia, Ms. Yordanka Fandakova.

“For Sofia Municipality, the protection of information has always been a key priority, and I am extremely happy that our team will be able to participate and be trained in this innovative technology in the field of cyber security,” she added.

Among the official guests of the event were the Deputy Mayor of Sofia Mr. Gencho Kerezov, Academician Chavdar Rumenin – Director of Center of Competence QUASAR, Prof. Stefan Hadzhitodorov – Deputy Chairman of the National Academy of Sciences, Evgenia Pasheva – Deputy Chairman of the National Academy of Sciences, Brigadier General Vasil Sabinski – Director KIS-, Major General Todor Dochev – Rector of Military Academy “G.S. Rakovski”, Col. Borislav Genov – Head of the Defense Institute, as well as experts of the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Transport and Communications and experts from the industry.

The Lead Organization in the Consortium IR-BAS via CoC QUASAR (QUASAR) is the competent national body in Bulgaria in the field of quantum technologies and responsible for further deployment of the national QCI. Through its expertise in the field of quantum communications and technologies QUASAR will guarantee the successful implementation of the project in accordance with all technological requirements and priorities of EuroQCI. The team in the Centre will take active role in all activities within the project which include technical design, hardware and software implementation. It will also take responsibility for the full verification and validation in the development of the QCI networks and systems. In addition, the Centre’s experts will participate in the preparation of the training materials for the planned use cases, training of different potential users as well as the exercises, demonstrations and dissemination of the results. QUASAR is also responsible for cross border cooperation with a Greek consortium in relation to the development of the National QCI Roadmap 2024-2027.

Electron Progress EAD (EPROGRESS) is a leading Bulgarian defense industry communications and information systems (CIS) integration company. It is the successor of the former Institute of Special Electronics (ISE), founded in the late 60s of 20th century. The company is a cutting-edge provider of C4I (command, control, communications, computers for intelligence) integrated solutions for Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Transportation and Information Systems and other governmental and corporate organization’s needs. EPROGRESS has extensive experience and unique know-how in the development, design and implementation of communications and information products and systems. It has provided over the years CIS solutions based on the systems integration of ATM, ISDN, SDH, MPLS, VoIP, etc. technologies over fiber optics, wired, wireless and satellite communications media. The company has also received a patent in the field of improvised explosive devices (IED) counter measures. The company’s employs are highly skilled specialists in the area of CIS for national security and government purposes and almost all of them hold “Secret” level national security clearance and many of them have NATO “Secret” level security clearances. Currently EPROGRESS ensures the operation of the existing dedicated network in the Ministry of Defence of Bulgaria. Based on this and further having this specific clearance in the field of defence, the partner is selected to integrate the QKD layer in the existing network in the Ministry of Defence of Bulgaria.

Enterprise Communications Group (NCOM) is a leading integrator of the latest classical communication and information technologies. The vast majority of large government and business organizations in Bulgaria use NCOM technologies to organize their existing networks for voice and data transmission, to implement information systems or data centers, to build customer service centers and more. Within the scope of the project this partner will provide all the equipment and infrastructure necessary for the deployment of the planned QCI networks. Further they are responsible for the QKD layer integration (both hardware and software) within the existing terrestrial communication networks of a Bulgarian telecom operator. The experts of NCOM will take part in the practical demonstrations of the systems to potential users. They will gather data and determine the potential difficulties in relation to implementation and give recommendations for improvement of the deployment process from engineering point of view.

Correct Consulting Group (CORRCONS) is a consultant company possessing Technology Transfer Office working with public authorities and administrations, as well as with a large number of business organizations, NGO’s and the industry. The partner will organize the seminars, webinars, conferences and other training aiming to ensure the “Science Business” connection and efficient QCI deployment for the industry as well as to provide the necessary research environment. Using its experience in dissemination the partner will be responsible for the organization of demonstrations of the new QCI networks and systems to the largest number of potential users from the research industry, public authorities and other interested institutions. In addition, the partner will ensure the preparation and implementation of the Communications Strategy in implementation of the QCI plan, taking into account the main objectives and priorities of EuroQCI and the Digital Europe Programme.