China grants Wlan licensing rights to more firms

The Chinese government has granted licensing rights for the security protocol at the heart of China's national wireless Lan...

The Chinese government has granted licensing rights for the security protocol at the heart of China's national wireless Lan standard to nine more companies.

The Chinese Wlan standard is very similar to the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers' 802.11 standard, commonly known as Wireless Fidelity or Wi-Fi, but it uses a different security protocol developed locally, called Wlan Authentication and Privacy Infrastructure (Wapi).

"Because the 802.11 or Wi-Fi standard is not so secure, a more secure standard is needed for Wlan," said Li Jie, a spokeswoman at China's State Encryption Management Committee Liaison Office.

The Chinese Wlan standard took effect on 1 December, although a transition period has been granted for certain Wlan products that extends the compliance deadline to 1 June. Companies wanting to sell Wlan gear in China must comply with the new standard by that date.

The implementation of the standard has caused consternation among US-based industry groups over questions of interoperability with Wi-Fi and regulations requiring foreign Wlan equipment makers to enter into co-production agreements with Chinese companies that have been granted the rights to license the technology.

While any Chinese company that has been approved to produce commercial encryption products can apply for the rights to license WAPI, the Chinese government will not grant licensing rights to foreign companies, Li said. Existing regulations do not permit foreign companies to have access to commercial encryption technology used in China.

Chinese companies have been granted the rights to license Wapi at no cost, Li said. However, foreign companies will be charged by their co-production partners to integrate Wapi into their Wlan gear.

The US Information Technology Office has expressed concerns that the requirement for foreign suppliers to enter into co-production agreements could put them at a disadvantage. In addition, the Wi-Fi Alliance has noted that a Chinese Wlan standard incompatible with 802.11 could lead to higher prices for Chinese end users and create interoperability problems.

"This will add cost to end users but considering the higher safety the new standard provides, it is acceptable," Li insisted.

Sumner Lemon and Henry Lee write for IDG News Service

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