Continuous Variable QKD (CV-QKD)


Continuous Variable Quantum Key Distribution (CV-QKD) is a type of quantum key distribution (QKD) protocol that uses continuous variables, such as the quadratures of the electromagnetic field, to encode and transmit information securely.

In CV-QKD, the quadratures of light, consisting of the light wave’s amplitude and phase, are measured. Amplitude can be thought of as the height of the wave, and phase as the position along the wave’s up-and-down cycle.

This contrasts with Discrete Variable Quantum Key Distribution (DV-QKD), which uses discrete values of single photons to encode information, such as their polarization direction.

Like other QKD protocols, CV-QKD relies on the principles of quantum mechanics to ensure secure communication. The security of CV-QKD is based on the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, which states that certain pairs of physical properties (like position and momentum, or in this case, the quadratures of light) cannot be simultaneously measured with arbitrary precision.

In CV-QKD, information is encoded in the quadratures of coherent states of light or squeezed states of light. These states are modulated using Gaussian distributions, hence the name “Gaussian-modulated coherent states” (GMCS) CV-QKD.

The receiver uses homodyne or heterodyne detection to measure the quadratures of the received quantum states. These measurements are then used to extract the shared secret key.

After the quantum states are measured, classical post-processing techniques, such as error correction and privacy amplification, are applied to distill a secure key from the correlated measurement results.

GG02 Protocol

The GG02 protocol is commonly used for CV-QKD and is named after Frédéric Grosshans and Philippe Grangier. Here is a brief overview of the protocol:

  1. Preparation:
    • Alice (the sender) generates a pair of random numbers representing the amplitude and phase of a coherent state of a light wave.
    • She modulates the light waves according to these numbers to produce the coherent states.
  2. Transmission:
    • These modulated coherent states are transmitted over a medium, such as an optical fiber.
  3. Detection:
    • Bob (the receiver) uses a homodyne detector to measure either the amplitude quadrature or the phase quadrature of the received light states, chosen randomly for each state.
    • Bob records his measurement results.
  4. Classical Communication:
    • Bob communicates with Alice over a public channel to inform her which quadrature he measured for each state.
    • Alice and Bob discard the states where Bob measured a different quadrature than the one Alice prepared, keeping only the matching pairs.
  5. Key Generation:
    • The retained measurement results are used to generate a shared private key for future encrypted communications.


  • Integration with Existing Technology: CV-QKD can be implemented using standard telecommunications components, such as homodyne detectors and coherent light sources, making it practical for integration into existing fiber optic networks.
  • Higher Key Rates: CV-QKD has the potential to achieve higher key rates compared to some DV-QKD protocols due to its use of continuous variables and efficient reconciliation protocols.


  • Sensitivity to Loss and Noise: CV-QKD protocols are generally more sensitive to channel loss and noise compared to DV-QKD. This requires careful management of the quantum channel and advanced error correction techniques.
  • Finite Key Security: Ensuring security in practical implementations with finite key lengths is complex and requires rigorous analysis and testing.


Applications for CV-QKD include:

  • Secure Telecommunications: Transmission of data over fiber optic networks, including Free Space Optics (FSO).
  • Financial Services: Protecting sensitive financial transactions.
  • Government and Military: Ensuring secure communication channels for sensitive information.