Apple has quietly introduced a new and improved AirPort Extreme Base Station.

The new wireless access point offers support for 802.11a/ b/g and n wireless networking. It is equipped with a USB port for a printer or hard drive (which then acts as shared storage), a WAN port for DSL or a cable modem, three 10/100 LAN ports for computers and other devices, and a security slot.

"The new Airport Extreme is the most powerful and easy-to-use Wi-Fi base station that we have ever made," said Phil Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing. "With five times the performance and twice the range, now you can transfer bigger files faster and get access to the internet and your favourite digital media from many areas in your house you couldn't reach before."

"The sleek, easy-to-use AirPort Extreme Base Station is the perfect wireless access point for home, school or small business," Apple explains.

"It delivers up to five times the performance and up to twice the range compared to 802.11g routers," the company added.

The device is scheduled to ship in February, and will cost £119. It's compatible with both Macs and PCs.

The device uses MIMO (Multiple In Multiple Out) smart antennas and 802.11n technology. It can operate in either the 2.4GHz or 5GHz wireless frequencies and also reduces the possibility of interference from appliances and cordless phones that operate in the 2.4GHz frequency.

AirPort Extreme is backward compatible with Macs and PCs using previous generation 802.11b/g wireless technologies.

The device has a new design — just 6.5in square and 1.3in tall. New AirPort Utility software included with every AirPort Extreme makes it very easy to set up a secure, wireless network for up to 50 simultaneous users within minutes. Users can also set security restrictions, including internet access limits on their childrens' computers.