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Intel Macs add support for 802.11a WiFi standard

post #1 of 45
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Despite comments from Apple executives that the company would have no part in bringing the 802.11a WiFi specification over to the Macintosh, the first Intel-based Macs announced this week have the capability to connect to third party access points using the standard, AppleInsider has confirmed.

Devices based on the 802.11a standard operate in the 5 GHz frequency range, creating a wireless zone about 300 feet in radius in which users can exchange files and data at 55mbps -- about five times faster than 802.11b Wi-Fi networks.

Once touted as a likely successor to the 802.11b standard, the 802.11a specification hit insurmountable roadblocks a few years ago when WiFi manufacturers largely began favoring the the 802.11g specification instead because of its backwards compatibility with 802.11b networks.

"802.11a makes no sense--no sense at all," Greg Joswiak, Apple's vice president of worldwide hardware product marketing, said almost three years ago to the day. "There's no conceivable (802.11)a market."

Because 802.11a is not backwards compatible, users transitioning from 802.11b would be forced to abandon their networks and buy new access points and wireless laptop cards -- an expense that could turn monstrous depending on depending on the size of the network. Hefty consumer expenses associated with transitioning to 802.11a was also the primary reason Joswiak cited for Apple's decision to pass on the standard.

The 802.11a specification differs from others in that it provides 12 non-overlapping channels -- 8 for indoor use -- that enable more access points to cover same physical location without interfering with one another.

Users of Apple's new iMac Core Duo and MacBook Pro will have the capability to browse and connect to third party access points using 802.11a (as well as 802.11b and 802.11g). However, Apple has told its partners that it will not be providing any further support for the standard at this time. Additionally, neither Apple's AirPort Express nor AirPort Extreme wireless access points currently support 802.11a.

Still, that didn't stopped the company from taking advantage of the implementation the first chance it got. According to tipsters, Apple vice president Phil Schiller used a 802.11a wireless network for a MacBook Pro product demonstration during company's opening keynote address at this week's Macworld Expo. This reportedly allowed Schiller to avoid the connection quagmire experienced by the hundreds of laptop users connected to the 802.11g network in the keynote hall.

It's unclear if Apple will decide to add support for 802.11a to its AirPort wireless access points sometime in the future. The company's new iMac Core Duo desktop featuring 802.11a support is currently shipping, while its MacBook Pro laptop offering is not expected to ship in volume until sometime next month.
post #2 of 45
Seem they decided to finally give in to people begging to be able to access the 802.11a networks. Ultimately I don't know of any wireless A networks myself. I'm running 802.11g like 95% of people now and it would make no sense to include support in their routers if they already support G simply because anyone broadcasting 802.11a is probably a dumbass.
post #3 of 45
Seems they must be using Intels wireless chipset solution as it has support for 802.11a/b/g. I was wondering with the switch would apple use Intels hardware chipsets (..Smart), or would they fashion their own in-house approach. Hopefully over time, this brings cost down, and enables Apple to stay on the cutting edge in incorporating new technology. This may also explain the lack of firewire-800 on the new MacBooks as I'm not sure Intel has a chipset to support this?
post #4 of 45
Quote:
Originally posted by toneloco28
Seems they must be using Intels wireless chipset solution as it has support for 802.11a/b/g. I was wondering with the switch would apple use Intels hardware chipsets (..Smart), or would they fashion their own in-house approach. Hopefully over time, this brings cost down, and enables Apple to stay on the cutting edge in incorporating new technology. This may also explain the lack of firewire-800 on the new MacBooks as I'm not sure Intel has a chipset to support this?

Actually, my interpretation of the article's content states that OS X 10.4.4 now has low-level support for the 802.11a standard but the MacBook Pro and new iMac both use Airport Extreme which uses the 802.11a/g cards.

Meanwhile, Schiller had a custom added wifi card for the purposes of the Keynote which allowed him to have low bandwidth saturation during his part of the keynote.
post #5 of 45
So they ditched Broadcom?
post #6 of 45
"Users of Apple's new iMac Core Duo and MacBook Pro will have the capability to browse and connect to third party access points using 802.11a (as well as 802.11b and 802.11g). However, Apple has told its partners that it will not be providing any further support for the standard at this time. Additionally, neither Apple's AirPort Express nor AirPort Extreme wireless access points currently support 802.11a."

This paragraph says that neither the airport express or extreme ACCESS POINTS support 802.11a. The new iMac and MacBook do have 802.11a support... seems clear enough.
post #7 of 45
They're using Intel chips. Those chips have the support. Why not use it?

This is an advantage going Intel, I guess.

More support is always better than less support.
post #8 of 45
They are using the "Intel Pro Wireless" chip which is head and shoulders above broadcom chipset. The broadcom chipset Apple currently uses in PowerPC computers is the same crappy one's used in almost every Dell notebook.

The Intel Pro Wireless chipset also has much better power management, but the real fun comes starting in June, when the Intel Pro Wireless chipset will include:

802.11a/b/g/n + WiMax + EVDO (Cell Network) + EDGE (Cell Network)
post #9 of 45
Quote:
Originally posted by webmail
...but the real fun comes starting in June, when the Intel Pro Wireless chipset will include:

802.11a/b/g/n + WiMax + EVDO (Cell Network) + EDGE (Cell Network)

Not even aware of what all that means, but I am looking forward to finding out!
post #10 of 45
WiMax = "ADSL over the air". Gained some momentum here in Copenhagen after two companies started offering it in late 2005 in greater Copenhagen and some other cities in Denmark. If I didnĀ“t have a ridicules fast (10-20 mbit/s) and ridicules cheap ($20/month including fixed IP) line I would have jumped on that. No need to find WiFi networks when you are not home.

EDGE = 2.5+G cell technology. Up to about 200kbit/s in ideal conditions. But it is using mobile network (= comparable expensive) and it needs a SIM and subscription to work (Oh, just had a thought: Mobile Me?)
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post #11 of 45
Given the spectrum issue, I don't understand Joswiak would say that 'a' doesn't make sense. I personally don't need 'a' because I live in a low-tech area, I would think that businesses would want to use it.

I don't think what is in the Apple base stations matter, being far too expensive for reasons that are beyond me. I can get a reliable base station for $40, getting a modem and print server separately still doesn't cost half of Apple's price.
post #12 of 45
So it would be safe to say the the MacBook Pro has Centrino inside?
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post #13 of 45
Quote:
Originally posted by fahlman
So it would be safe to say the the MacBook Pro has Centrino inside?

No, because it has a snappy ATI graphics card! Basically Apple have taken the two good bits of the Centrino Duo platform and replaced the third weak one with a better card. Best of both worlds, exactly as I hoped they would!
post #14 of 45
Quote:
Originally posted by fuyutsuki
No, because it has a snappy ATI graphics card! Basically Apple have taken the two good bits of the Centrino Duo platform and replaced the third weak one with a better card. Best of both worlds, exactly as I hoped they would!

Centrino machines can have ATI or nVidia graphics. To recap, a Centrino computer must include:
Intel Pentium M, Core Solo, or Core Duo processor
Intel 915 or 945 chipset
Intel PRO/Wireless
post #15 of 45
Quote:
Originally posted by webmail
...the real fun comes starting in June, when the Intel Pro Wireless chipset will include:

802.11a/b/g/n + WiMax + EVDO (Cell Network) + EDGE (Cell Network)

I don't believe this at all. There will be no Mobile WiMax certifications until 2007, so anything in this year would have to be Mobile Pre-WiMax, and there will also be no Mobile Pre-WiMax service providers to connect to this year. Intel has little experience designing EDGE radios and no experience at all designing CDMA radios, so I don't see Intel shipping those this year if ever.

What is more likely is notebooks including two slots; one will contain an 802.11+Bluetooth card and the other will contain either a UMTS/EDGE/GPRS card or an EV-DO card.
post #16 of 45
Quote:
Originally posted by fuyutsuki
No, because it has a snappy ATI graphics card! Basically Apple have taken the two good bits of the Centrino Duo platform and replaced the third weak one with a better card. Best of both worlds, exactly as I hoped they would!

When you refer to an Apple product that's "snappy", or that has something inside that's "snappy", you have to say that it's "Teh Snappy".

It's become traditional!
post #17 of 45
Quote:
Originally posted by wmf
Centrino machines can have ATI or nVidia graphics. To recap, a Centrino computer must include:
Intel Pentium M, Core Solo, or Core Duo processor
Intel 915 or 945 chipset
Intel PRO/Wireless

This machine had a Core Duo, and uses the 945 chipset. Don't know if the wireless is the PRO or not.
post #18 of 45
Quote:
Originally posted by melgross
This machine had a Core Duo, and uses the 945 chipset. Don't know if the wireless is the PRO or not.

It does. Hence why there is now support for 802.11a. Apple has just used Intel's package. They could slap a Centrino sticker on those computers if they really wanted.
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post #19 of 45
So now we have the explanation for the missing FW800 port.
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post #20 of 45
Quote:
Originally posted by Anders
So now we have the explanation for the missing FW800 port.

What explanation is that?
post #21 of 45
Quote:
Originally posted by melgross
What explanation is that?

I really don't think it is an explaination. The implication is that whatever board space occupied by adding 'a' meant losing FW800, but that would be a false claim if it were to be made. It isn't as if there is a separate chip to add that only does 'a', or that chip is larger than previous b/g-only chips to the point that it means trading off the FW800 chip.
post #22 of 45
Quote:
Originally posted by JeffDM
I really don't think it is an explaination. The implication is that whatever board space occupied by adding 'a' meant losing FW800, but that would be a false claim if it were to be made. It isn't as if there is a separate chip to add that only does 'a', or that chip is larger than previous b/g-only chips to the point that it means trading off the FW800 chip.

I don't think that's it either, if that's what he was talking about.

FW 800 costs more for Apple to impliment. It rarely is needed. When it is, people will by buying drives and cases anyway. The Express slot will have 800 solutions available, as Apple says, hopefully, by the time the machine itself is available.

My problem here is that they went for the narrower slot to save room. Far more devices will be available for the wider version. There are already a bunch of devices for it. This is an unfortunate limitation.

One thing that would be nice is if the remote control would allow control of Keynote presentations. Likely it doesn't. But it would seem that this is an opportunity for Alessandro Montalcini to make USB Overdrive, or some new app, support it. The program is great. This would be a VERY welcome feature.

Alessandro, are you listening? Nah, I'll have to write him.
post #23 of 45
Quote:
Originally posted by melgross
FW 800 costs more for Apple to impliment. It rarely is needed. When it is, people will by buying drives and cases anyway. The Express slot will have 800 solutions available, as Apple says, hopefully, by the time the machine itself is available.

My problem here is that they went for the narrower slot to save room. Far more devices will be available for the wider version. There are already a bunch of devices for it. This is an unfortunate limitation.

Another unfortunate thing is that there is only one slot. If I decide to get a separate card to put in a second firewire channel, that would mean swapping cards should WiMax or other long range wireless Internet service become viable.

Maybe it is needless griping about Firewire 800, external SATA seems to be the thing that is taking off now, but I would think that solution would likely be limited to two drive connections on an Expresscard slot.
post #24 of 45
Quote:
Originally posted by JeffDM
Another unfortunate thing is that there is only one slot. If I decide to get a separate card to put in a second firewire channel, that would mean swapping cards should WiMax or other long range wireless Internet service become viable.

Maybe it is needless griping about Firewire 800, external SATA seems to be the thing that is taking off now, but I would think that solution would likely be limited to two drive connections on an Expresscard slot.

A second slot would be tight. But, yes, I was thinking the same thing. But there were dual function cards before, so maybe, we will see them again.

Two SATA drives would seem to be enough for location, at least, plugged in at once. But, it's possible that a four drive card could come out, if the 34 pins would allow it.

I'm switching to SATA here at home. I have two four drive FW towers, and one four drive SCSI tower.

I've lost several FW drives because of Apple's FW problems, and I'm tired of it. The problem of needing new chips in the cases every 18 months or so is getting me frazzled. Hopefully, external SATA won't have these problems.
post #25 of 45
Looks like Broadcom wireless in the iMac:

http://mactree.sannet.ne.jp/~kodawar...l/01141162.jpg
post #26 of 45
Also the Apple FW800 chipset is a Texas Instruments chip which is actually quite large in size (I've seen on on a PBG4 1.5 MB) and they may simply have not been able to fit it on the MB? Another possiblity is there may be no open PCI bus slots left on the chipset once you had the Wireless card (mini PCI)? I dont know how many PCI slots the ICH7M supports. Interesting that some of Intel's own high end desktop motherboards feature FW800, but again they use a seperate TI chip for it. No PC chipset has native FW support (although neither did Apples).
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post #27 of 45
Sounds like a good thing IMHO. 'a' may have a shorter range, but it doesn't have the overlapping channels issues of 'b' and 'g', is as fast as 'g', and has a number of channels that simply do not overlap with ISM equipment (so you don't have to buy 900MHz cordless phones, which aren't available in digital expandable form, just to make sure your cordless phones don't interfere with your networks. Get 2.4GHz or 5.8GHz and while you're running with 'a', you're fine.)

I really don't understand why Josniak was criticising the standard. Yeah, people who want to use it will need new equipment, but at the time he said that, most people didn't have any kind of wireless. Looked short sighted to me, and I'm glad they're no longer going down that path.
post #28 of 45
Quote:
Originally posted by melgross
What explanation is that?

That Intel chipsets/motherboards don't support FW800 yet.
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post #29 of 45
Quote:
Originally posted by Gene Clean
That Intel chipsets/motherboards don't support FW800 yet.

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post #30 of 45
Quote:
Originally posted by Gene Clean
That Intel chipsets/motherboards don't support FW800 yet.

I thought that someone else pointed out that there aren't any chipsets for any architecture that support FW800, it has always been a seperate chip on Macs.
post #31 of 45
Quote:
Originally posted by JeffDM
I thought that someone else pointed out that there aren't any chipsets that support FW800, it has always been a seperate chip on Macs.

Perhaps Apple choose to be a 100% Intel beoch and not do anything themselves besides pack whatever Intel gave them into their own shell. Or rather, thats exactly what they did.
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post #32 of 45
Quote:
Originally posted by Anders
Perhaps Apple choose to be a 100% Intel beoch and not do anything themselves besides pack whatever Intel gave them into their own shell. Or rather, thats exactly what they did.

I don't see why that would be so. The mobo's that Intel builds are not only completely different in form, they build them to spec for those who need that. Apple is certainly no different. And has been said, ALL mobo's with FW use seperate chips. It's really no biggie - if Apple really wantd it.
post #33 of 45
Quote:
Originally posted by Anders
Perhaps Apple choose to be a 100% Intel beoch and not do anything themselves besides pack whatever Intel gave them into their own shell. Or rather, thats exactly what they did.

If that were true, then I think they would have used Intel's video chip too.
post #34 of 45
IIRC, the higher frequency for 802.11a means its signals don't go through walls/floors as well as 802.11b/g signals. For the large percentage (majority?) of people who wanted 802.11 as an alternative to cabling the house/apartment/office, that pretty well ruled out 802.11a--which is why 802.11a hasn't gone anywhere in spite of the advantages mentioned by previous posters.
post #35 of 45
Quote:
Originally posted by Gene Clean
That Intel chipsets/motherboards don't support FW800 yet.

Intel chipsets don't support FW400 either, yet Apple managed to add it.
post #36 of 45
Quote:
Originally posted by DavidH
IIRC, the higher frequency for 802.11a means its signals don't go through walls/floors as well as 802.11b/g signals. For the large percentage (majority?) of people who wanted 802.11 as an alternative to cabling the house/apartment/office, that pretty well ruled out 802.11a--which is why 802.11a hasn't gone anywhere in spite of the advantages mentioned by previous posters.

I think range issue is probably overstated. 11b/g has far better range than I need, I can imagine 11a being enough and not interfering with cordless phones, Bluetooth or getting knocked out by microwave use. Heck, I was in a development where I was getting a signal from six access points from inside a house.
post #37 of 45
Quote:
Originally posted by wmf
Intel chipsets don't support FW400 either, yet Apple managed to add it.

Almost all Sony PCs come with FW400 and almost all of them use Intel chipsets.
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post #38 of 45
Quote:
Originally posted by Gene Clean
Almost all Sony PCs come with FW400 and almost all of them use Intel chipsets.

That still doesn't tell us if it's IN the chipset, or simply that Sony elected to use the far more popular FW 400.

Most people use FW for attaching their camcorders. You don't need more than 400 for even the new low end Hi Def models.
post #39 of 45
Quote:
Originally posted by webmail
802.11a/b/g/n + WiMax + EVDO (Cell Network) + EDGE (Cell Network)

Wondering:
Airport -> Airport Extreme -> ?

If Apple keeps using their own brand for the wireless in their computers (and why not?) what will they call this next iteration which includes all of the above.
Airport Max
Airport Extreme Pro
Airport Extreme MegaMaxPro
Airport MultiUltraExtremeMegaMaxPro Mk. II?

Only time will tell.
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post #40 of 45
Quote:
Originally posted by DavidH
IIRC, the higher frequency for 802.11a means its signals don't go through walls/floors as well as 802.11b/g signals. For the large percentage (majority?) of people who wanted 802.11 as an alternative to cabling the house/apartment/office, that pretty well ruled out 802.11a--which is why 802.11a hasn't gone anywhere in spite of the advantages mentioned by previous posters.

The coverage should be fine, and it's not much more susceptable to inteference from drywall than regular 'b' (it's only half the wavelength, after all.) I wouldn't try to cover a wide area with it, but an appartment or normal sized house should be easily covered internally.

Plus you can always go the microcellular route if you want.

If the problems were that bad, the new fashion for 5.8GHz cordless phones wouldn't be going anywhere either, as they use the same frequency and have the same power/reception issues.
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