Apple Unveils 802.11n Wireless Base Station

The new AirPort Extreme Base Station uses MIMO (Multiple In, Multiple Out) smart antennas and the 802.11n draft standard to boost speeds up to five times and range up to two times that of earlier wireless standards such as 802.11g. The access point is backwards compatible with 802.11a/b/g devices. A USB port also lets users connect a printer or external disk drive to the device for sharing on the wireless network.

"The new Airport Extreme is the most powerful and easy to use Wi-Fi base station that we have ever made," said Philip Schiller, Apple senior VP of product marketing, in a statement.

Software included with the station will enable 802.11n draft standard support -- and thus speeds and range -- in the newest Intel-based Macs, said Apple, which has been shipping the technology in Core 2 Duo-equipped iMacs (except for the 17-inch, 1.83GHz model), MacBooks, and MacBook Pros. The software is required to turn on those Macs' faster and longer-range wireless capabilities.

Apple is relatively late to the 802.11n party; the major wireless hardware makers, including Belkin, Netgear, and Linksys, have been selling devices that support the not-yet-officially-approved draft standard for months.

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The AirPort Extreme access point will go on sale in February at a suggested retail price of $179.