Apple on Monday introduced a new
AirPort Extreme Base Station that it expects will appeal to large educational and business customers. The new model — part #M9397LL/A — features support for Power over Ethernet and also conforms to a fire rating specification developed by Underwriters Laboratories (UL). The new AirPort Extreme Base Station costs US$249.
“Now you can put the AirPort Extreme Base Station wherever you please,” Dave Russell, Apple’s senior director of portables and wireless, told MacCentral.
The new AirPort Extreme Base Station is functionally identical to its brethren — it communicates with wireless networking devices using the IEEE 802.11g standard, up to 54Mbps, and is downwardly compatible with 802.11b (“AirPort”) devices as well. It can communicate with devices up to 150 feet away. It sports a USB interface for attaching a printer or other device to be shared on the network and can support an external antenna. It also excludes the 56K v.90 modem found on another model.
Where the new Base Station differs is in its support for the IEEE 802.3af standard, or Power over Ethernet. Although the device comes equipped with an AC connector, it can draw current from an Ethernet switch that supports this capability — when it does, the USB port is deactivated, according to information on Apple’s Web site.
With the ability to install an AirPort Extreme Base Station anywhere an Ethernet cable can reach comes another change — the new device supports UL 2043, a fire safety standard for devices that operate in “air-handling spaces,” such as the area above a suspended ceiling in a classroom or office — likely spots for a network installer to install a base station unobtrusively.
“We only needed to make slight modifications,” said Russell, who noted that users wouldn’t notice any physical difference between the new AirPort Extreme Base Station and its brethren. Russell declined to provide any specific detail about what Apple had to do to make the new base station UL 2043-compliant.
Apple is selling the unit for $249 in single quantities — or $229 to education — and includes an AC adaptor in case you haven’t migrated to a powered Ethernet switch. Anticipating widespread adoption in educational campus settings, Apple also sells the new AirPort Extreme Base Station in a money-saving five-pack for $999 each. The five packs eschew the AC adapter all together.