D-Link has been the latest vendor to introduce a line of WiMax devices.

The release of a WiMax router from one of the leading networking vendors underscores how rapidly the multi-gigabit long-distance WiMax technology is becoming both available and affordable.

The router will incorporate a radio based on the IEEE 802.16e mobile WiMax standard for a 2-3Mbit/s link to a base station up to several miles away, and a second radio to support Wi-Fi connections with PCs, notebooks and other client devices.

At the recent WiMax World conference, similar customer premises equipment was showcased by several companies, including ZyXEL and Motorola. Demonstrations of routers, or gateways, and initial PCMCIA cards for laptops were common on the show floor, showing that mobile WiMax products are finally available and affordable. The WiMax Forum plans to begin certifying product interoperability starting late this year or early in 2007.

This class of products, including the new ones from D-Link, are aimed at service providers, who will be the ones deploying WiMax infrastructures. It's expected that these network services will typically be wireless alternatives to DSL and cable broadband, or replacements for dial-up connections where other alternatives are pricey or unavailable.

D-Link will make its WiMax router available to service providers for testing by yearend and plans general availability in early 2007. The company has not announced pricing.

The WiMax World demonstrations typically included laptops with early WiMax PCMCIA cards linking to base stations. Video applications were popular.

Nortel's demonstrations of its new gear include WiMax-equipped clients from partners including LG-Nortel, its joint venture with Korea's LG Electronics. Nortel is working with Israel-based Runcom to develop WiMax chipsets for a range of client devices.

At the Motorola booth, one demonstration simulated a laptop in a moving car, displaying a movie streamed from a server over a WiMax link. The session was handed off seamlessly from one WiMax base station to another. Elsewhere in the booth, a pair of laptops with mounted video cameras and WiMax cards created a video conferencing session through a base station. The images were smooth and crisp.

ZyXEL unveiled two customer products. The MaX-200H is an indoor 802.16e gateway, roughly the size of a thick paperback book. It has a built-in firewall, an 802.11 Wi-Fi interface, a four-port Ethernet switch, and VoIP support. An optional, paddle-shaped antenna attaches by suction cups to a window to improve reception. The MAX-300 is an outdoor version of the 200H, to support longer range connections. The company says the products will ship, in 2.3, 2.5, and 3.5 GHz band, in the United States by year-end - even though there will be virtually no 802.16e, and few 16d, base stations for them to connect with.

Intel showcased a new system-on-a-chip for fixed WiMax in similar customer premises gear, including Intel's own CPEi 200 Series. The new chip can be upgraded wirelessly with software to support mobile WiMax in the future. Also announced was a WiMax baseband card, designed to slide into a base station chassis. Both products will ship by the end of the year. Eventually, Intel plans to have WiMax included with Wi-Fi chips in its Centrino technology package, which PC and notebook vendors can integrate into their products.

Nokia, best known for its mobile handsets, unveiled the Flexi WiMax Base Station, designed to minimize the labour and space to install, and the power to run, a 16e mobile WiMax infrastructure. A model for 2.5 GHz will ship at the end of 2007, a 3.5 GHz model in 2008, when Nokia's first WiMax handsets are also due.