US govt opposes China's WLan standard

Three senior US government officials weighed in on the controversy surrounding China's implementation of a national standard for...

Three senior US government officials weighed in on the controversy surrounding China's implementation of a national standard for WLans (wireless Lans) with a letter to senior Chinese officials that described the move as a barrier against international trade.

The letter expressed concern over China's implementation of a mandatory standard for WLan technologies. It said the move created a dangerous precedent for using standards as a barrier to international trade, according to the US Information Technology Industry Council (ITI).

The letter will bring a measure of additional diplomatic pressure on China to negotiate a compromise over the issue, said Glyn Truscott, a consultant at market analyst BDA China in Beijing. "It's turning up the heat a little bit."

The controversy over WLan standards began last year with China's adoption of a national standard for WLans.

The Chinese standard, called GB15629.11-2003, is very similar to the IEEE 802.11 standard, commonly known as Wi-Fi, but it uses a different security protocol, called WLan Authentication and Privacy Infrastructure (WAPI). While the standard took effect on 1 December, the compliance deadline for some products has been pushed back until 1 June.

Chinese and foreign companies selling WLan equipment in China must ensure that their products comply with the Chinese standard by that date. However, industry executives have warned that a separate standard for WLan equipment sold in China could divide the wireless networking market.

"We believe that mandatory implementation of the WAPI protocols would unnecessarily fracture the world market for WLan products," Paul Nikolich, chairman of the IEEE 802 Local and Metropolitan Area Network Standards Committee.

The Chinese WLan standard has also caused controversy for provisions that require foreign companies to work with Chinese partners.

Foreign companies are required to license WAPI through co-production agreements with one of 24 Chinese companies that have been granted the rights by the Chinese government to license the technology.

US trade group the US Information Technology Office (USITO) has said this provision unfairly forces foreign companies to grant their Chinese co-production partners access to their technology.

Sumner Lemon writes for IDG News Service

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