Apple submitted a “network adapter” to the FCC for approval earlier this year, a Presentation has revealed, though suggestions that it could be a successor to the AirPort or another unannounced networking product for consumer use are probably off the mark.
Apple discontinues AirPort line of consumer networking products
Whenever a company designs a device to use radio frequencies, such as Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, for use in the United States, it must obtain regulatory approval from the FCC. According to documents shared by the FCC, Apple on January 22 submitted a “network adapter” with the model number A2657 to the agency with the following details.
A2657 is a network adapter. It has an integral battery, two Gigabit Ethernet ports, a USB-C connector, and an antenna. The device supports IEEE 802.11b/g/n radio, Bluetooth radio, and NFC. The network adapter comes with 32GB of memory storage and 1.5GB of RAM.
The device is designed to connect to a host computer and receive its power through a USB-A port during normal use.
Documents state that the device is running firmware “19F47”, which corresponds to an older internal version of iOS 15.5, suggesting it is powered by Apple silicon. The FCC tested the device by connecting it to an iMac, but other than that, no further details have been provided, and Apple has requested a non-disclosure agreement that will last until November 2022.
The presentation does not include any images of the device, but there are some telltale signs in the description that it is unlikely to be related to an upcoming consumer product.
For one thing, it appears that the device lacks support for the 802.11ac wireless networking standard. Also known as Wi-Fi 5, 802.11ac was announced in 2014 and has been replaced by Wi-Fi 6, which is already supported by the new iPhones, iPads, and MacBooks.
Second, the device only uses the 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi band, while most modern business routers and consumer Apple devices support the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands and 5 GHz spectrum. GHz usually provides the best performance. For example, the discontinued sixth-generation AirPort Extreme base station operates in both the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz radio bands.
Lastly, the device “intends to receive its power through the USB-A port during normal use.” Apple replaced USB-A connectivity with USB-C on all of its MacBooks and iMacs, and the idea of launching a consumer device with a legacy port as its primary connector isn’t realistic.
Apple officially ended development of its AirPort product line in 2018, and the company has since sold third-party routers. Apple has a number of FCC-certified devices that are intended for internal use only, and this filing pertains to any other devices that fall into that category.