802.11 meets GB156929.11-2003

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The Standardisation Administration of China (SAC) has announced it will enforce a new, secure wireless standard which all manufacturers must include in their products by June 2004. 

The new standard, called GB156929.11-2003 is similar to 802.11 in many ways, but uses a different security protocol called WLAN Authentication and Privacy Infrastructure (WAPI). The standard threatens to upset the adoption, spread and standardisation of the IEEE's 802.l1 (or WiFi) wireless networking standard, while also undermining future efforts to develop a single global wireless standard.

WAPI is intended to be a strong security measure for WLANs. Foreign equipment vendors must ensure their equipment complies with GB156929.11-2003 and must license WAPI through a manufacturing agreement with one of 11 companies designated by the government; a situation described by the US Information Technology Office in Beijing as 'threatening' to foreign vendors.

The of Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) is currently working on the 802.11i standard to upgrade security measures, and is promoting Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) technology to temporarily replace the previously less secure WEP protocol. The IEEE feels that 802.11 is an international standard and believes the mandatory requirement that Chinese WLAN products require WAPI will fracture the world market for wireless products. The IEEE has invited the SAC to discuss possible options, including the possibility of incorporating WAPI into 802.11.

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