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China agrees to drop WAPI wireless sec spec

First fruit of trade talks

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The Chinese government has given way under pressure from US companies and agreed to postpone indefinitely the imposition of its WAPI wireless security standard.

In return, they will work to integrate the Wireless LAN Authentication and Privacy Infrastructure into existing international standards.

The turnaround was announced yesterday at the end of a day of talks between US and Chinese trade officials. The two countries are attempting to resolve a number of differences, most notably the tax rebates China offers to local chip makers.

WAPI was due to become a mandatory component of all WLAN products sold in China from 1 June onward. However, China's Vice Premier, Wu Yi, yesterday said that it had dropped the requirement.

Late last year, the Chinese government agreed to move the original WAPI implementation deadline from 1 December 2003 to 1 June 2004, again under intense lobby pressure from the US government on behalf of WLAN chip makers, most notably Intel.

Indeed, Intel said last month that it would simply stop selling its WLAN products in China from 1 June, if the Chinese went ahead with the imposition of WAPI.

WAPI was developed to address weaknesses in the original Wi-Fi security specification. Some observers, however, saw the spec. as an attempt to favour China's local IT industry over established overseas players.

China is also pursuing other local, unique standards: it is creating its own high-definition DVD specification, for instance. ®

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