China Revives Contentious Wireless Standard
Mar 9, 2006
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China is attempting to revive WAPI (wireless authentication and privacy infrastructure), the China-developed encryption standard for wireless local area network (WLAN) equipment. WAPI's resurrection comes on the same day the International Standards Organization (ISO) was scheduled to vote on adoption of an Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) WLAN standard, IEEE 802.11.

WAPI was originally seen as a barrier to foreign access to China's computer and telecom markets and was a source of contention between the U.S. and China. It was quietly and indefinitely postponed during bilateral U.S./China trade talks in Washington DC in April 2004.

The postponement ended yesterday with the establishment of a Chinese government-backed WAPI industrial alliance. The 22 founding members include high-profile Chinese companies like IBM-brand PC producer Lenovo, one of the world's biggest personal computer OEMs. Others include Founder Group, Hisense, Haier, Huawei Technologies, Datang Mobile, and Datang Microelectronics Technology.

Some companies based outside China appear eager to be a part of the WAPI alliance. Among them, according to the China Daily News, is Conexant Systems, Inc. (Newport Beach, California, U.S.), a global supplier of semiconductors for broadband communications for the digital home.

It is unclear how much of an obstruction the new WAPI standard would be to non-Chinese companies.

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