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ISO Meeting Fails to Back WAPI Standard

A Chinese wireless network proposal failed to make a breakthrough at a meeting of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) due to unfair treatment, according to the Chinese delegation.

The Chinese delegation to a conference of ISO/IEC JTC/SC06/WG1, a working group under the ISO, said in a written statement on Wednesday that it would withdraw from the meeting in Frankfurt over the alleged unfair treatment.

The conference is discussing a wireless network connection standard and the Chinese side proposed its Wireless Authentication and Privacy Infrastructure (WAPI), which is designed to increase the security of the wireless local area network (WLAN) and competes with the IEEE802.11i for the international standard.

The statement did not specify what unfair treatment the Chinese delegation encountered at the conference.

But it said earlier at a press briefing that "international monopoly forces" blocked WAPI and tried to get the US-dominated IEEE802.11i adopted as an international standard.

Previous reports said that the ISO/IEC JTC/SC06/WG1 refused the proposal from the Chinese delegation to discuss the WAPI and IEEE802.11i proposal together and asked the delegates to vote on the 802.11i proposal, mainly raised and supported by a number of US organizations and companies.

China tried to use the WAPI standard as a national standard on June 1, 2004 to protect WLAN information security, but this caused strong complaints from the United States and other countries.

The Chinese Government later decided to postpone the date indefinitely and urged the Chinese working group and international standardization bodies to co-operate.

Zhang Ying, general manager of domestic research house Analysys, said the difficulties the Chinese delegation met reflected strong opposition from some US giants such as semiconductor giant Intel and WLAN equipment maker Broadcom, although there are not clear advantages and disadvantages between two proposals in terms of their technologies.

Intel Chief Executive Officer Craig Barrett said last year during a trip to China that his company welcomed an open international standard and suggested his company would follow the 802.11i proposal if this is adopted.

Intel is one of the strongest supporters of WLAN, used in its famous Centrino processors, and is believed to be the biggest opponent of the WAPI proposal.

Zhang from Analysys pointed out that another reason for the failure of WAPI this time was the lack of communication with other competing proposals.

Analysys predicted in a report in January that a revised WAPI standard might have a chance to merge with IEEE802.11i to become part of the international standard.

However, Zhang believed the door to the international standard remains open and the only difference might be that the process will continue to drag on.

He explained that US companies might want to use the extended time and make their proposals become the de facto standard in the market.

"The biggest weakness of WAPI is the lack of industrial support," said Zhang.

He said he believed products based on WAPI will enter volume production and delivery in the market and network construction will start this year.

The huge size of the Chinese market and the industrial supports will be two biggest bargaining chips for the home-grown WAPI proposal.

(China Daily February 25, 2005)

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