A Dutch company and its British partner have re-launched a long-range Wi-Fi technology that's claimed to do most of what WiMax promises, yet is here today and is a fraction of the cost.

The technology, called InspiAir, was developed in Israel but despite a number of early contract wins, it has not seen widespread success.

Now though, Dutch distributor KMC Systems has acquired the worldwide sales rights, renamed it Max-Fi, and is pitching it as a cost-effective alternative to WiMax.

The claims made for the technology - which is now in its second generation - are hard to credit, acknowledged John Duffin, the business development director at VPNet, Max-Fi's UK distributor.

"It's not bumping up the power - it's standard 802.11 and it works with your existing laptops, yet even at 2km range you can get 1 or 2Mbit/s," he said. Each Max-Fi AirEZ 4000 rugged access point has four 802.11a/b/g radios and can support up to 300 users, he added.

Critics have pointed out that most of InspiAir's successes were outdoor deployments, and that any Wi-Fi technology gives longer range in free air. However, Max-Fi boss Avreal Rabenau claimed that while its advantages are greater outdoors, Max-Fi beats standard Wi-Fi on range indoors too.

"Our competitors would have to put the power up to match us, which is illegal," he said.

He added: "It can do anything you can do with Wi-Fi, plus the signal goes 2km further. WiMax offers more bandwidth, but we can do 80 percent of what it offers, and we do it at lower power with today's equipment."

Max-Fi gear was recently chosen by the Port of Antwerp, which has covered 30 square kilometres with just 14 access points. The network, which is currently in test, will support CCTV cameras for harbour control, voice-over-IP for port operations, and Internet access for visiting ships.

According to Rabenau, the Max-Fi access points cost around 1,500 Euro per radio. "The whole Antwerp budget was half a million Euro, and only half of that was the equipment - in other telecom projects, the hardware side would be higher," he said.