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China tells Intel to calm down over Wi-Fi

'This could be a critical decision that Intel is making'

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Intel has been told to "calm down" and reconsider its decision to stop selling Wi-Fi products in China.

The chip giant objects to the Chinese government's insistence that WLAN products sold in China support the country's own wireless security system, dubbed Wired Authentication and Privacy Infrastructure (WAPI). The technology will become mandatory on 1 June. WAPI was to have become effective on 1 December 2003. However, US government lobbying persuaded the Chinese to put back the deadline.

In any case, Intel wants none of it, and this week formally said it would not support the Chinese specification.

"This could be a critical decision that Intel is making," said an official of the state-backed group behind WAPI, according to the Financial Times. "China is such a strategic market. I think Intel should calm down."

If Intel doesn't support WAPI, its WLAN products, including its ProWireless mini-PCI add-in cards and the Centrino platform that they enable, will be banned from sale in China on 1 June.

"If the Centrino remains what it is today, without any upgrading, it will not comply with the law so it will obviously be banned," said the Chinese official said. "I don't see any reason why the Chinese government should retreat on this."

To date, Broadcom has also said it will not support WAPI. Wireless chip maker Atheros and Cisco's SME-oriented WLAN business, Linksys, have said they will build the spec. into products destined for the Chinese market.

The Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA), which represents US chipmakers, last month called on the Chinese government to abandon plans to make WAPI mandatory. Not only have overseas firms had insufficient access to WAPI's specifications, but the system is incompatible with existing and upcoming IEEE standards, the SIA said.

Of greater concern is China's insistence that companies willing to add WAPI support to their products should do so through local partners. ®

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