FCC Scoops Apple: New AirPort Extreme Outed, Time Capsule Hits 3TB

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Oops, it looks like the FCC may be inadvertently doubling as Apple’s public relations arm this morning, appearing to confirm rumors that an updated AirPort Extreme wireless base station is in the offing.

Yes, it’s the sort of Tuesday where rumors about geeky home networking gear are making waves in the absence of major stories. You know, like whoever LulzSec’s hacking next.

(PHOTOS: The Long, Extraordinary Career of Steve Jobs)

Last week, 9to5Mac noticed a few lines of code tucked in Apple’s recent AirPort Utility update that suggested new AirPort Extreme and Time Capsule models were on the way. The code referenced a “5th Generation AirPort Extreme Base Station” and a “4th Generation Time Capsule,” both with 802.11n capability (current models of both already do). Other features then rumored to be coming: a utility that caches software updates, meaning they’d download in the background silently, then stream at ultra-high-speeds to your Apple computer(s) and/or iOS device(s).

The other reason everyone’s fairly certain Apple’s up to something here is that channel supplies of AirPort Extreme and Time Capsule models have dwindled in recent weeks.

The big change to Airport Extreme could be support for the three-stream 450Mbps N standard over 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, speculates Engadget. No one’s sure what to expect though, and the FCC listing doesn’t get specific. The last update to the AirPort Extreme base station family was in late 2009, when Apple tweaked the antenna for speed and range improvements.

Turning to Time Capsule, Apple’s wireless backup device, Cupertino today bumped the device’s capacity significantly, now offering it in 2TB and 3TB flavors. The prior storage cap was 2TB, and that model—which had been $499—now sells for $299, while the new 3TB model takes its place on the boutique-backup throne with a $499 price tag (the 1TB model is no more). Everything else about the new models appears to be the same: same size, same wireless capabilities, same dual-band 802.11n mode.

AppleInsider notes that Time Capsule’s unassuming storage-only update “quashes” prior rumors that Apple would roll out a version powered by iOS to offer additional features, like print and media streaming, iCloud integration and the cached software updates mentioned above.

MORE: Apple To Replace Broken Time Capsules From 2008