RealTime IT News

Wi-Fi Splash in China

Come September 26, the Wi-Fi Alliance plans to make a big splash in that last major untapped wireless LAN market: China. The industry group and Analysys International say there could be a market worth $10.3 billion there in 2008, so the Alliance is working to create its first China Wi-Fi Summit.

Still, this isn't an event just for the members of the Alliance. "This is similar to a trade show in that the industry and any interested parties are invited," says Karen Hanley, the Alliance's senior marketing director.

The event is being produced in conjunction with BII Group Holdings, formerly Beijing Internet Institute, an early Internet company in the People's Republic of China (PRC).

One question still unanswered is how this event impacts the plans the PRC has for Wi-Fi. In the past, China has pushed for the inclusion of WAPI (WLAN Authentication and Privacy Infrastructure) as part of or as replacement for the 802.11 standards on which Wi-Fi is based. In 2003, the PRC began to require WAPI support in WLAN products sold in the country.

The PRC allegedly didn't like 802.11i because they felt its 128-bit key in AES could be decrypted by the National Security Agency (NSA) in the United States; they therefore wanted their own security scheme in place, so WAPI was developed by a third party there.

The rejection of WAPI as a required standard by the International Standards Organization (ISO) may have spelled the end of it, at least outside of China. They've said that before, however. Plus, the PRC was still pushing WAPI as late as October 2006. ChinaTechNews says that just last month, the deputy minister of China's Ministry of Information Industry (MII) asked Intel to support WAPI as an international standard.

Even if WAPI won't do it, the PRC has not given up. ChinaDaily says that a proprietary high-speed broadband wireless tech for LANs from Beijing-based Nufront Software is being backed as technologically advanced over what the IEEE has today, even though the speeds they mention seem to be a fraction of the data rate expected of 802.11n.

When asked about the WAPI flap, Hanley concentrates on the positive aspects of the planned conference. "We are hoping to have good attendance from government officials, analysts and consultants," she says. "I think it's important to note the complementary nature of Wi-Fi with other technology."

A Web site for the Global Wi-Fi Summit is already up, stating that the two-day conference will have "roundtables, keynote addresses, track speeches and panel discussions" regarding municipal, campus and enterprise networks; Wi-Fi in mobile phones and digital homes; complementing 3G and WiMax; and the evolution of the 802.11 standards. There will also be an exhibition hall "with product demonstrations and interoperability testing events."

The Alliance says there is currently an installed base of 300 million users of Wi-Fi in the world, and that number is growing 25% per year.