The application of quantum key distribution (QKD) has raised particular demands for single-photon detectors. One of the most promising candidates at the low-loss optical fibre communications windows is the planar geometry InGaAs/InP single-photon avalanche diode. These detectors have been modelled, fabricated and characterised at 1.55m wavelength. Their performance in terms of single-photon detection efficiency, dark count rate, timing jitter and afterpulsing behaviour are reported and compared with the best commercially available, linear multiplication avalanche photodiodes operated in Geiger-mode. Their use in the application of QKD is discussed. © The Institution of Engineering and Technology 2007.