Intel Macs add support for 802.11a WiFi standard

Posted:
in Current Mac Hardware edited January 2014
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.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 44
    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.
  • Reply 2 of 44
    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?
  • Reply 3 of 44
    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.
  • Reply 4 of 44
    jonejone Posts: 102member
    So they ditched Broadcom?
  • Reply 5 of 44
    "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.
  • Reply 6 of 44
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,727member
    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.
  • Reply 7 of 44
    webmailwebmail Posts: 639member
    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)
  • Reply 8 of 44
    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!
  • Reply 9 of 44
    andersanders Posts: 6,523member
    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 didn´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?)
  • Reply 10 of 44
    jeffdmjeffdm Posts: 12,946member
    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.
  • Reply 11 of 44
    fahlmanfahlman Posts: 696member
    So it would be safe to say the the MacBook Pro has Centrino inside?
  • Reply 12 of 44
    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!
  • Reply 13 of 44
    wmfwmf Posts: 1,164member
    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
  • Reply 14 of 44
    wmfwmf Posts: 1,164member
    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.
  • Reply 15 of 44
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,727member
    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!
  • Reply 16 of 44
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,727member
    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.
  • Reply 17 of 44
    telomartelomar Posts: 1,804member
    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.
  • Reply 18 of 44
    andersanders Posts: 6,523member
    So now we have the explanation for the missing FW800 port.
  • Reply 19 of 44
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,727member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by Anders

    So now we have the explanation for the missing FW800 port.



    What explanation is that?
  • Reply 20 of 44
    jeffdmjeffdm Posts: 12,946member
    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.
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