Chinese security standard could fracture Wi-Fi, says IEEE

Wednesday, 10 December 2003, 2:05 PM EST

The Standardisation Administration of China (SAC) announced the adoption of China's WLan standard, called GB15629.11-2003, in May.

WLan equipment sold in China had to comply with the standard from 1 December. A transition period has, however, been granted that extends the compliance deadline for some WLan products until 1 June.

The Chinese WLan standard is similar in many ways to IEEE's 802.11 wireless networking standard - commonly known as Wireless Fidelity or Wi-Fi - but it has one crucial difference: it uses a different security protocol, called WLan Authentication and Privacy Infrastructure (WAPI). WAPI is not part of the 802.11 standard, which relies instead on Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP).

The existence of two different standards for WLans, one for China and one for the rest of the world, could cause the market for wireless networking equipment to splinter in two, according to Paul Nikolich, chairman of the IEEE 802 local and metropolitan area network standards committee.

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