Connection issues plague Apple AirPort Extreme, Time Capsule

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Users of Apple's latest Airport Extreme Base Station and Time Capsule hardware, released in October 2009, have reported instability and significant reductions in speed when using the routers at the 5GHz wireless band.

A thread on the Apple Discussions features a number of users who claim issues with the hardware. In posts dating back to November and stretching into February, users say they have experienced much slower speeds on the 5GHz band, regardless of proximity to the base station.

"Stability and speed is terrible on 5GHz network," user 'Koskimaa' wrote. "Not to mention, now when I try to watch the streamed iPad Keynote in Quicktime, it crashes my PPPoE connection. Also, Time Machine backup has been far from smooth."

Some have said that transferring large files in 5GHz mode can freeze the connection, and there are numerous reports of instability while accessing 802.11-N mode on the 5.2GHz band. The same problems, users say, are not experienced at the 2.4GHz frequency.

User 'playtech1' wrote on Monday that his new 1TB Time Capsule is "hopeless in the 5GHz band." He said download speeds are about 420Kbps slower than at the 2.4GHz band.

"This is a real shame, given that I bought it to occupy the 5Ghz band - in my apartment I can see over 20 wireless networks in the 2.4ghz band and only one in the 5ghz," they wrote.

Last October, Apple updated its Time Capsule and AirPort Extreme hardware with a new speed boost. The devices include a new antenna design that aims to offer up to 50 percent better wireless performance, along with a 25 percent improvement in range over previous models.

The new hardware operates simultaneously over both 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, allowing multiband devices to use the best available band. Apple said the new feature ensures better compatibility with devices that may interfere with one another through wireless transmission.

But rather than seeing improved performance with the new dual-band antenna, a number of users claim that their connection speeds are significantly reduced when operating at the 5GHz band.

"My 5GHz are so slow its unusable," user 'lagstrom' wrote. "Pretty often it (loses) contact and hooks to the 2.4GHz network instead. Please release a firmware fix soon."

"Sometimes I even need to restart my Airport card on my (MacBook Pro) because it hangs after getting connected to the 5GHz network which is extremely unstable," user 'Hank the tnak' wrote.

In December, AppleInsider reported that the AirPort line of routers had lost market share in 2009. Apple's hardware was fifth in the market, thanks in part to higher prices, behind Linksys, Belkin, D-Link and Netgear. And while the Time Machine consumer network attached storage device is a market leader, it satisfies a very small niche market.