Apple finds yet another name for 54G wireless

by Guy Kewney | posted on 08 January 2003

The new non-standard of 54G wireless is also known as Wireless G (if you're Linksys) or AirPlus Xtreme G if you're D-Link. Apple has now "pioneered" this same non-standard, with the label "AirPort Extreme 802.11g" - which is quite possibly the least honest claim so far.

Guy Kewney

Steve Jobs made his announcement of the new 54 megabit wireless system at yesterday's MacWorld show in San Francisco - amongst a lot of other exciting new products. He claimed credit, quite correctly, for being "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."

Then, somewhat less correctly, the Apple CEO proclaimed: "Today we're doing it again by launching AirPort Extreme, the next generation of wireless products based on 802.11g that runs at 54 Mbps, yet is fully compatible with the millions of 802.11b Wi-Fi devices and Hot Spots around the world."

In fact, Jobs isn't able to ship yet, any more than anybody else, as the chips are still in short supply; he'll probably have first samples out by the end of January, which is when everybody else will.

He was able to release pricing, with UK figures starting at £149 (inc VAT). And he was able to state that the new AirPort Extreme would support up to 50 users, and would add a new feature: wireless bridging to extend the range beyond just one base station, and USB printer sharing to allow multiple users to wirelessly share USB printers connected directly to the base station.

Since everybody else is happily proclaiming that this pre-standard will run at 54 megabits, Jobs can't be faulted for joining in. Airport Extreme will run at the same maximum throughput of 22 megabits per second that all 11g derivative systems will, as long as there are no 11b WiFi devices in the area to bring performance down to 11b speeds.

In addition to increased speed, both of the AirPort Extreme Base Stations offer new features such as a USB port for low-cost wireless USB printer sharing and a second 10/100BASE-T Ethernet port for connections to fast LANs and DSL or cable modems.

"Education campuses and other institutions can take advantage of new features such as a software placement utility for optimal base station location, a software power control that lets administrators adjust the wireless network range to fit a specific area and optional range-extending omni-directional and directional antennas," said the official press release.

The new wireless bridging feature lets customers extend the range of a wired network by allowing one AirPort Extreme Base Station on a LAN to "bridge" with up to four additional AirPort Extreme Base Stations, eliminating the need to pull additional cables underground and into buildings.

Coupled with Apple's Rendezvous technology this will enable iChat among networked Macs and can also be used to automatically discover and deploy other Rendezvous-enabled devices on the network, such as printers, without complicated set up. AirPort Extreme offers the latest security features including built-in Firewall and 128-bit encryption. The new smaller and faster AirPort Extreme Card is designed specifically for the internal card slot found in Apple's new PowerBook G4 notebooks also announced today.

AirPort Extreme will be available from the end of January through the Apple Store and resellers.

The AirPort Extreme solution includes the AirPort Extreme Card for a suggested selling price of £79 (Inc VAT) and the AirPort Extreme Base Station for a suggested selling price of £149 (Inc VAT). The AirPort Extreme Base Station with a built-in 56K V.90 hardware modem and additional port for connecting a range-extending antenna has a suggested selling price of £189 (Inc VAT).