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Ricochet set to bounce back

After a brief appearance after the Sept. 11 attacks, the high-speed wireless service will soon get back to business in a number of cities.

2 min read
NEW YORK--Ricochet, the defunct high-speed wireless Internet service, is staging a comeback for customers in a number of cities.

The company is negotiating with New York and other cities around the nation to resume its service, said Emilie Kelly, vice president of marketing at Ricochet. It plans to resume service in Denver this month and San Diego soon thereafter, company spokeswoman Kabira Hatland said. Meanwhile, other areas should get service within the next six to 12 months, Kelly said. The company served 21 cities nationwide before former owner Metricom shut down the service.

Kelly said Ricochet does not have a specific timetable for resuming service in New York.

Agostino Cangemi, New York's deputy commissioner of technology and telecommunications, said the city is in the late stages of negotiations to have the service up and running again soon.

Speaking at a conference here that addressed plans to rebuild the city's telecommunications infrastructure, Cangemi said this time around Ricochet will offer services geared for the consumer market rather than the corporate market.

"They were charging nearly $80 for the service which interested a smaller segment," said Cangemi. "The price will be lower--more competitive with DSL (digital subscriber line) and broadband prices. And there are areas in New York City where you can't get DSL or broadband."

Ricochet plans to sell the service for $44.95 per month and charge $99.95 for the modem, Kelly said. In contrast, Metricom charged $75 to $80 per month for Ricochet service and $250 to $300 for the modems, she said.

"That's a much more reasonable and competitive price point compared with the other high-speed options that are available today," Kelly said.

Ricochet was brought back alive briefly last September to help in the rescue efforts in the aftermath of attacks on the World Trade Center.

In February, Denver began using the Ricochet service as part of a limited trial period.

Ricochet was owned by Metricom, a company partly funded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen's Vulcan Ventures, and was shut down when Metricom filed for bankruptcy. Aerie Networks bought Ricochet's assets for just under $10 million. In contrast, Metricom spent about a $1 billion building out the network in 21 U.S. cities. Ricochet is now a wholly owned subsidiary of Aerie Networks.

Ricochet is working on "exchange deals" with various municipalities to get the service up and running, Kelly said. In exchange for the right to deploy and use radio transmitters on top of light poles and other city structures, Ricochet is offering free or discounted wireless Internet service to city agencies such as police and fire departments, she said.

Cangemi said Ricochet's technology is currently installed atop about 3,000 light poles across Manhattan, leaving the city with another 17,000 light poles to rent out to other wireless companies.

Cangemi was speaking at a business forum on the topic, "Building a 21st Century Telecommunications Infrastructure in Lower Manhattan." The forum was held at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.