China's Wireless Encryption Standard Rejected

The world industrial-standards association has rejected China's controversial wireless encryption standard for global use, news reports said Monday, dealing a blow to Beijing's effort to promote its own standards for computers and telecoms.

China is promoting its WAPI system in a campaign to reduce reliance on foreign technology and give its companies a competitive edge.

Members of the International Organization for Standardization rejected WAPI in favor of an American standard known as 802.11i in balloting that ended March 8, the U.S.-based electronics industry newspaper EE Times and the Chinese government's Xinhua News Agency said.

But Chinese officials still plan to press ahead with the campaign to promote WAPI and to use it domestically, Xinhua said. The agency didn't cite a source for its information and it wasn't clear whether its dispatch was an official announcement.

A spokesman for the Geneva-based ISO said he couldn't immediately comment. ISO groups together the national bodies throughout the world that set standards for telecoms, electronics and other industries.

China dropped an effort last year to make WAPI its mandatory national standard after complaints by Washington that it would hamper access to the Chinese market for foreign companies.

China's high-tech companies could benefit if its system won acceptance as a world standard, because they would have a head start in using it and could license their technology abroad.

Xinhua didn't give details of the ISO vote, but the EE Times said only 22 percent of members supported the Chinese standard, versus 86 percent in favor of the American system.

Still, the government "insisted that it will firmly support the technology called WAPI and failure in the international standard application will not affect its domestic use," Xinhua said.

"China is sure to continue government support to WAPI," an unidentified official of the Standard Administration of China was quoted as saying.

Xinhua cited Chinese officials who complained of "obstruction from the monopoly groups" in the information technology industry.

"The diplomatic relationship between the United States and other nations also influenced the voting choice of the national bodies," the Chinese standards official was quoted as saying.

Last week, China announced the creation of a 22-member group of companies to promote WAPI. Members include Lenovo Group, the world's No. 3 PC maker, and Huawei Technologies, a leading maker of switching equipment used for telecoms and the Internet.

The Chinese government has promoted WAPI as being more secure than 802.11i, developed by a group led by U.S.-based Intel Corp., the world's biggest computer chip maker.

But EE Times, citing ISO documents, said those who voted against WAPI expressed concern that its development was closed to outsiders and that China has released too little information about it.

Companies that opposed Beijing's effort to make WAPI mandatory complained that access to its technology was limited to 11 government-selected Chinese companies.

China is the world's biggest mobile phone market, with more than 400 million customers, and the second-largest Internet market after the United States, with more than 100 million people on line.

There has been no indication that the WAPI promotion effort includes regulations requiring telecoms or computer makers operating in China to use it.


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