Chinese group vents anger over 'unfair' WAPI vote

Chinese supporters of WAPI were outraged that the security protocol was rejected as an international standard.

The rejection of China's WAPI (WLAN Authentication and Privacy Infrastructure) security protocol by an international standards group has not gone down well with Chinese backers of the technology.

In response to WAPI's rejection, the semiofficial China Broadband Wireless IP Standards Working Group (BWIPS) issued a hotly worded statement calling the results "unfair and unreasonable" and declared it was unwilling to accept the decision.

"This is unacceptable," BWIPS said.

WAPI was submitted for consideration as an International Organization for Standardization (ISO) standard for wireless LANs. However, the submission was rejected last week by ISO members, who voted 17 to eight against adopting WAPI as an international standard. Instead, ISO members voted overwhelmingly to adopt the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc.'s (IEEE's) 802.11i submission as a standard.

In response, BWIPS accused IEEE of spreading false information about WAPI and deceiving the public, saying the group's behavior violated ISO's ethical guidelines and created an environment that was prejudiced against WAPI. BWIPS plans to request an ISO investigation into IEEE's activities during the voting process, the statement said.

"We express our indignation and resolute opposition against IEEE and its agents for their complete disregard for the position of the Chinese side and blind opposition to WAPI," BWIPS said. The group went on to accuse IEEE of acting "selfishly and irresponsibly" to protect a monopoly commercial interest, an apparent reference to Intel.

A spokesman for BWIPS in Xi'an declined to comment on the statement, saying he was not authorized to discuss it with the media. "Our position was made very clear in the statement," he said.

Rock Yang, an analyst at BDA China, in Beijing, said the BWIPS reaction to the results of the ISO vote was not surprising. "They have invested a lot of money and a lot of human resources to promote this technology," he said.

The Chinese government wants to see WAPI adopted as an international standard but has failed to achieve this goal several times, Yang said. As a result, BWIPS appears to have singled out IEEE as a scapegoat. "Who else can they blame?" he said.

IEEE's resistance to adopting WAPI as an international standard hardened during the months leading up to last week's vote, documents showed. Members raised concerns about the failure to disclose the encryption algorithm used with WAPI. In addition, non-Chinese companies were unable to obtain working versions of a WAPI device, they said.

These concerns were raised with the Chinese delegation prior to the vote, according to the IEEE documents.

ISO members will meet again in June to discuss the results of last week's vote.

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Sumner Lemon

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