South Korea operator SK Telecom (SKT) partnered with data security provider Thales to improve standalone (SA) 5G network security using advanced quantum-resistant encryption to better protect subscribers’ identity and privacy.

In a statement, the companies explained they developed SIM-communication network authentication technology using quantum-tolerant cryptography which linked with a 5G test network. The system aims to encrypt and decrypt subscriber identity in a secure way to protect user privacy from future quantum threats. 

By upgrading the cryptography used to anonymise the user digital identity on the network, the pair claimed the trial represents “a major step forward since it allows companies to safeguard subscribers’ identities via a regular commercial telecoms network”.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology is leading an initiative to standardise post-quantum cryptographic algorithms, and SKT and Thales used the Crystals-Kyber version for this trial. 

Yu Takki, head of infrastructure technology at SKT, stated looking ahead it will combine post-quantum cryptography SIM with its broader expertise to achieve end-to-end quantum-safe communications, with the aim to develop a security system covering not only communication networks but also services.