by CIO Staff

China’s WAPI WLAN Standard Not Going Down Without Fight

May 30, 2006 3 mins

Chinese backers of the rejected WLAN Authentication and Privacy Infrastructure (WAPI) wireless security protocol have accused rivals of unethical behavior in a last-ditch attempt to revive their standardization hopes.

The semiofficial China Broadband Wireless IP Standards Working Group (BWIPS) singled out the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), accusing the group of acting improperly during the international standardization process. “IEEE has committed unethical and unjust activities trying to destroy WAPI by every means,” it said.

Among the charges levelled at IEEE, its complaints about grammatical errors in the WAPI submission documents were evidence of “cultural chauvinism,” BWIPS said.

The accusations over WAPI’s treatment come as International Organization for Standardization (ISO) members prepare for a June meeting to confirm a March vote that overwhelmingly approved a rival submission, the IEEE’s 802.11i standard.

During that vote, ISO members rejected WAPI as an international standard. The Chinese ISO delegation was outraged by the rejection. “China is strongly against the ethical and procedural violations and cannot accept the ballot results,” BWIPS said.

“If these violations are not satisfactorily resolved, China reserve[s] the right to take additional actions to ensure that fairness, justice, procedural integrity and China’s rights and interests are all protected,” the group said.

IEEE opposed the approval of WAPI as an international standard for several reasons, including the lack of backward compatibility with existing WLAN technologies. It also noted that its members had failed to obtain a working WAPI device. The group’s stance was outlined in a document published in January.

BWIPS has asked ISO to render “unfair and void” all negative comments made about WAPI during the voting process. In addition, the group wants ISO to reject the approval of 802.11i and consult with the Chinese delegation to determine WAPI’s status and “further processing plans.”

WAPI has long been a source of controversy. The technology was introduced in 2003 as a mandatory WLAN standard for China. At the time, Chinese licensing rules for WAPI required foreign companies to share technical details of their own products with local companies in order to sell WLAN gear in China.

The attempt to establish a mandatory Chinese standard, which would have banned the sale of WLAN gear based on the IEEE’s 802.11 standard, was eventually shelved in the face of foreign opposition.

BWIPS has made copies of its report and supplementary materials available on its website.

-Sumner Lemon, IDG News Service

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