China's WAPI standard wins international support

Iris Hong

China is to resubmit its wireless security protocol WAPI as an international standard - this time with the support of US and European companies who previously opposed it.

Three years ago the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) turned down the Chinese protocol.

Earlier this month, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), led by the US, UK and France, invited China to resubmit the technology for approval.

US chip giant Intel, previously an opponent of the WAPI standard, told that it was "committed to supporting home-grown Chinese technology innovation."

A company official said Intel had added an interface to its Centrino platform interface "that enables OEMs to support WAPI and other applications."
Chinese website said the US had changed its stance because the commercialization of the technology and the adoption by Chinese telecom operators had made it unstoppable.

Both China Mobile and China Telecom have said that they only procure WLAN equipment that support both Wi-Fi and WAPI.

China originally developed the WAPI standard to provide encryption for Wi-Fi.

But it became embroiled in controversy when officials announced in late 2003 that all WLAN equipment must contain WAPI and that foreign vendors would have to partner with a government-selected Chinese firm to obtain the technology.

After heavy lobbying from the US government, China agreed to suspend the program indefinitely from April 2004.

In 2006, the ISO turned down WAPI and instead adopted IEEE 802.11i. China responded by accusing the IEEE of committing \'unethical and unjust activities trying to destroy WAPI.\'

After failing to make WAPI an international standard, the Chinese government promoted WAPI domestically, using it in the Beijing Olympic sites and on college campuses. The WAPI Industry Alliance was established and has grown from 22 members to 58 members over the last three years.

WAPI devices are starting to gain momentum this year as Chinese telecom operators kick off commercial 3G services.

The government has lifted the restrictions for WLAN capabilities on mobile phones as long as they support WAPI. Mobile phone makers including Motorola recently released handsets that support both WAPI and Wi-Fi.


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