China's home-grown security technology of wireless local area networks (WLAN) was dealt a blow last week when it failed to be voted the new international standard.
China's WAPI and the United States' 802.11i were proposed to the International Standard Organization (ISO) last October. The voting that ended on March 8 ruled in favor of the American standard.
But the Chinese government insisted that it will firmly support the technology called WAPI and failure in the international standard application will not affect its domestic use.
"China is sure to continue government support to WAPI," said an official with the Standard Administration of China (SAC) who participated in the application.
"The American standard has been used in a big market and the diplomatic relationship between the United States and other nations also influenced the voting choice of the national bodies," said the official.
Senior engineer of telecommunications Li Jinliang attributed the failure to obstruction from the monopoly groups in the IT industry.
The laptop market and the WLAN products are highly monopolized by some groups and other companies find it hard to make any breakthroughs in security technology, said Li, who is a member of the science and technology committee under the Ministry of Information Industry (MII).
It is widely acknowledged that the present WLAN products are weak in security. Over 90 percent of the Centrino clients use insecure WLAN products. Centrino is the brandname of laptops made with Intel's WLAN products.
"What China does is to make up for it with a security loophole but that hurts the benefits of business giants in the field and obstructs WAPI," said the expert.
802.11i, mainly developed by Intel, has been accused of a security weakness because it adopted the WEP technology which is unsafe itself. WAPI, developed by a private Chinese company named IWNCOMM has so far proved safe.
China's proposition of the WAPI standard reflects the country's strategy in standard-making and information security, Li acknowledged.
As the core technologies used in telecommunications are all from foreign companies, the government has been worried about information security. The new strategy helps to secure infrastructure construction and defend the country against possible "information attacks", Li said.
Last year, China adopted innovation as its new policy of development, which gave WAPI a good opportunity to gain government support. Whether it is the international standard or not, WAPI will definitely be used in China as it will secure national security and economic growth, said Li.
According to ISO rules, new applications can be made again after the failure. The SAC official said that the Chinese national body is not ready for a new application but stressed that nothing would affect WAPI's domestic application.
Both the Chinese government and companies concerned are striving to obtain a fair international status for WAPI. WAPI Industry Alliance said the final result is not known as there is still a period of reconsideration for the voting.
Li suggested that the Chinese national body should prepare for an appeal against an unfavorable voting outcome.
The government should promote industrialization of WAPI through the Industry Alliance launched last week to build a complete chain from chip to system equipment to operation, he said.
On December 30 last year, China issued a circular, saying that government departments should give priority to products meeting national security standards when purchasing WLAN products, including computers, printers, telecoms equipment, copy machines and projectors.
"The enforcement of government procurement will help the WAPI standard become stronger," said Li.
(Xinhua News Agency March 14, 2006)