By | November 16, 2023
Anti-eavesdropping feature for phone calls debuts on Huawei's Mate 60 Pro

The tremors have hardly subsided since the Chinese technology giant Huawei Technologies in August presented its new Mate 60 Proa 5G smartphone that featured a breakthrough processor heralded as a giant technological leap for China.

There were more surprises to come, it turned out.

On Monday, China Telecom Quantum Group, in collaboration with Huawei, introduced the Huawei Mate 60 Pro Quantum Secure Call Customized Terminal – a smart device equipped with quantum encryption technology. According to the company, this makes it virtually impossible for anyone to eavesdrop on a secure conversation.

The device debuted at the 2023 Digital Technology Ecology Conference in Guangzhou, in southern China’s Guangdong province, according to an article on China Telecom Quantum Group’s official social media account. The joint venture was formed in 2020 by China Telecom – one of the country’s three state-owned telecom companies – and quantum information technology company QuantumCTek Group.

The Mate 60 Pro phone stunned the tech community when it was was launched in August. With an advanced chip and soaring sales, it has since been hailed by domestic consumers as a symbol of China’s ability to overcome tough US trade sanctions.

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Most current smartphones are based on chips and operating systems developed by American companies, some reportedly hacked by the CIA. Huawei, which in 2019 was added to a US blacklist that cut off access to advanced US technology, has turned to its homegrown 9100S CPU and Harmony operating system to power its devices.

The Chinese government has reportedly gifted Huawei phones to top officials from “friendly countries” such as Venezuela and Serbia.

The new quantum terminal has a “triple protection” strategy, using a domestically manufactured chip, algorithms classified as state secrets and a quantum security SIM card for added security.

According to the article, the Mate 60 Pro handset can be upgraded to make quantum-encrypted phone calls directly through the built-in keypad. The device can also encrypt file transfers and instant messages, as well as other functions through a pre-installed quantum-secure messaging app.

China Telecom has emphasized confidence in its latest product, stressing that the new terminal uses a domestically-made chip and home-grown quantum security middleware. The company said the customized Huawei Mate 60 Pro is intended for situations where communication security is imperative.

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“This kind of encrypted communication can only be achieved between terminals with this feature. It can be used in sectors such as public security,” said Wang Chao, general manager of XT Quantech, a Shanghai-based company that uses quantum technology to provide information security solutions.

But industry insiders have said the technology cannot offer true quantum communication, which involves encoding information directly onto quantum bits and transmitting information in a quantum state. Instead, they said, “quantum encryption” is just a commercial application of quantum technology.

Encryption processes involve the generation of random numbers. A scientist researching quantum communication at a top mainland university, who wished to remain anonymous, told the Post that the core idea of ​​the technology is to transform the way random numbers are generated – from traditional methods to a quantum-based one.

“Smartphones that can make quantum-secure calls are functionally similar to their traditional counterparts,” Zheng Jiasheng, head of China Telecom Quantum Group, told the state-owned Science and Technology Daily in 2020.


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“The difference lies in the incorporation of quantum keys produced using quantum information technology,” Zheng said.

Implementing the technology is not particularly challenging, according to Zheng. Telecom operators preload quantum keys – true random numbers generated by a quantum random number generator – into the specially designed quantum security SIM card. “These cards are not quantum chips,” Zheng stressed.

Making a quantum phone call generates two secret keys to verify the identity of the caller and the information about the call, thereby ensuring end-to-end encryption.

Users can get the new feature by visiting a store to buy the special SIM card and download their own limited number of exclusive keys. When the keys run out, customers must top them up at a nearby outlet, similar to refueling a car.


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China Telecom began offering quantum-secure calls to a limited number of users through a pilot program in early 2021, with the goal of providing the service to more than 10 million mobile users within five years.

This particular application of quantum technology is not new. In 2020, for example, South Korean telecom operator SK Telecom partnered with Samsung to launch the first quantum-encrypted 5G smartphone – the Galaxy A Quantum – based on similar technological principles.

The only difference is that the Galaxy A Quantum series, including its latest Galaxy Quantum 3, launched in 2022, runs on the Android system, while Huawei’s latest Mate phone runs on its own Harmony 4.0 operating system.

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“The security keys are truly random and difficult to decipher, and they are invalidated immediately after the call session ends,” the company said in its article.

While the technology was “relatively mature”, the quantum communication researcher warned it was “impossible” to expect it to be completely immune to hacking, unlike real-time quantum key distribution technology, which has seen limited applications in finance and transportation.

Although the quantum phone call function can ensure the randomness of keys according to quantum principles, the new product cannot eliminate eavesdropping because it lacks a quantum physical mechanism in the distribution process, according to several insiders.

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