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Ricochet: Dead Again?

Wireless broadband trailblazer Ricochet Networks Inc. has reportedly ceased operations for the second time in four years.

The company's service in San Diego was shut off late last week, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune. Meanwhile, the firm's CEO, Greg Sadler, told the Denver Post that Ricochet, which is a subsidiary of holding company Aerie Networks Inc., is "actively evaluating a number of options relative to its business prospects."

No one from the company had returned Unstrung's calls by press time.

Ricochet wireless service uses (used?) a Micro Cellular Data Network (MCDN) based on a digital packet-switched system that uses spread-spectrum radio frequency transmission, a mesh network architecture, and a 2.4GHz radio on the tabletop-modem-sized client device. The service offers data transfer rates of around 170 kbit/s.

Aerie bought the assets of Ricochet in November 2001 after original owner Metricom went into Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Originally, the new owners promised to reopen the entire 21-city network and work to make the system compatible with 802.11 wireless LAN networks; but to date they have only rebooted the service in Denver and San Diego (see Ricochet Rides Again).

If Ricochet has really gone under for a second time it won't be a promising sign for companies like ArrayComm Inc., IPWireless Inc., Navini Networks Inc., and others, which are all trying to promote their products as the basis for a similar kind of wireless broadband network (although many offer more mobility for users than Aerie's version of Ricochet does). A second strikeout for Ricochet will likely prompt the market to wonder again if these kinds of wireless cable/DSL replacement systems are actually viable.

— Dan Jones, Senior Editor, Unstrung

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