RealTime IT News

Apple Makes AirPort Extreme

Today at the MacWorld Expo in San Francisco, Apple unveiled the updated edition of one of the first 802.11 products that ever hit the market. The new AirPort Extreme keeps the same basic shape of the original AirPort base station but supports the draft for the 54 Megabit per second (Mbps) 802.11g specification (which is scheduled to be finalized sometime this year by the IEEE ).

"Apple was the first computer company to ship products based on 802.11b when it launched AirPort in 1999, kick-starting the entire Wi-Fi wireless revolution," said Apple CEO Steve Jobs in the release. "Today we're doing it again."

The AirPort Extreme Base Station product ships running a default "802.11b Compatible" mode, and will drop back to this if any 802.11b-based cards attempt to use it to get on the network.

The base station is the only wireless solution, according to Apple, that supports a direct dial-up connection for America Online subscribers (using version 5.0 or higher). One version of the unit has a built in 56K V.90 modem for dialing out, and it can also be used for remote PPP dial-in connections from outside. Other ports on the unit include a 10/100 Ethernet WAN port for connecting to a cable modem or DSL line, one LAN port for direct connecting a computer or network hub/switch for multiple computers, and a USB port for printer sharing (wireless print sharing only works from PCs using Mac OS X v. 10.2.3 or later). It also features an external antenna connector that will accept either directional or omni-directional antennas. The built in antenna will provide a standard 150-foot range in 802.11b 11Mbps mode, or 50-foot in 802.11g. To get the V.90 modem and antenna connector is $249. Without, the AirPort Extreme is $199.

There is also an AirPort Extreme client available for $99. AirPort antennas are built into all new Macintosh computers, so adding the client card will get them on the WLAN.

The AirPort Extreme also supports Apple's Rendezvous technology, which lets Macs using OS X instantly identify it as part of the network. More standard to Wi-Fi is the AirPort Extreme support for Wired Equivalent Privacy (up to 128-bit), a built-in firewall, and access controls; however the base station also has an administration utility that can increase or decrease the power level of the internal antenna to control the range, something you don't see in most home or small office Wi-Fi products.

Unlike the first wave of Wi-Fi, Apple isn't alone with this AirPort. 802.11g draft-based products from leading WLAN companies like Buffalo Technology and Linksys are now shipping to stores, with more products to join them from Netgear and D-Link soon.

Eric Griffith is the managing editor of 802.11 Planet.

Got a comment or question? Discuss it in the 802.11 Planet Forums with moderator Jim Geier.