Apple has announced the second-generation of its wireless networking technology, AirPort; though the revision is available only to the US market at this time, for which it offers many US-only features.

The AirPort Base Station has been given an overhaul. It now offers a built-in firewall for network protection, 128-bit data encryption and support for up to 50 users through one base unit. The unit also has two Ethernet ports: one 10BaseT for wide area connections such as ADSL or cable modems; the other is a 10/100BaseT port for local area network (LAN) networking.

The firewall protection works by using a private network address system. When the Base Station is configured to share the Internet connection with other machines, it distributes private network addresses to all the computers on the network. The resulting addresses are known only by the Base Station, protecting individual computers from Internet Protocol (IP) based attacks.

The new version is also compatible with AOL 5.0 (in the US), as well as offering AirPort card-level compatibility with Cisco's LEAP security method, which is commonly used in US higher education institutions.

Frustrating some users, AirPort's data transfer rate remains 11Mbps, and the range also remains the same at 150-feet. As before, AirPort has a built-in 56K modem.

AirPort for Windows Significantly, Windows PCs that support AirPort's inherent IEEE 802.11b Wi-Fi networking standard can also connect to the Apple Base Station wirelessly.

Apple is also preparing to release AirPort Software 2.0. This will be available for download from the company's Web site in both Mac OS X and OS 9.x versions. It's compatible with all past AirPort Cards and Base Stations, and can upgrade original cards to support 128-bit encryption. Encryption for original AirPort Base Stations remains 40-bit, however. Software Update will auto install AirPort 2.0.

The Base Station currently costs £203, AirPort cards cost £67 each (prices exclude VAT).