A Chinese news source is reporting that the rights to implement its home-grown WAPI standard may now be licensed by anyone - and not just domestic companies - in an effort to push for global adoption of the standard.
Two days ago I noted that ChinaDaily.com had reported that China would require certain state agencies to use its home-grown WAPI standard . I still haven’t seen anything in the Western press on this story, but last night another Chinese source reported a second development: the Chinese government will now allow any company – domestic or foreign – to license the WAPI encryption standard. The story appears at ChinaTechNews.com.
The significance of this development is that previously, only 24 domestic Chinese companies had been licensed to implement the standard, meaning that anyone who wished to sell products (e.g., wireless-enabled laptops) in China that implemented the standard would need to contract with one of those companies in order to do so.
This latest story does not state, however, whether the economic playing field will also be leveled. Originally, domestic companies were to receive a substantial rebate with respect to their products, while foreign companies would not.
Opening up the WAPI standard to all is not a surprise, in that China has been seeking to have the standard approved globally by ISO – something that could not happen unless it was available to all. By doing so at this time, China presumably is indicating that it is turning up the heat on ISO to accept WAPI on an equal basis with Wi-Fi – the IEEE standard that has been elsewhere widely adopted, and which has been strongly supported by Intel and other Western chip vendors.
An interesting question thus arises: if China will require (as this story also states) that WAPI encryption will become mandatory for products in addition to those purchased by government agencies, then Western companies may actually wish to support WAPI at ISO. Why? Because in order to gain ISO adoption, China would presumably need to drop any economic advantages for domestic companies. Given the size of the Chinese market, having two standards – Wi-Fi and WAPI – may seem like the lesser of two evils to the companies that want equal access to the profits to be made in the PRC.
Given that the formal press hasn’t picked up on this story yet, I’ll continue to pass along what I can find in English-translation Chinese news services.