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Bill Brown

A complicated man.

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Looks like Ricochet Networks was just sold again to YDI Wireless for $3 million from its previous owner, Aerie Networks.

For those of you not following the Ricochet saga—probably anyone reading this entry that’s not me—Ricochet was a wireless Internet access point network built by long-defunct Metricom in a spectacular burn of nearly a billion dollars. The wireless network achieved reported speeds of 400+kbps and offered amazing reception. The downside was that the service cost upwards of $75 per month for unlimited access. Consequently, they attracted at most 50,000 subscribers and that wasn’t nearly enough to cover operating expenses or interest on the debt incurred.

So Metricom filed for Chapter 11 and Aerie Networks bought its assets for $8.25 million in a fire sale. They scaled back Metricom’s nationwide—well, major metropolitan areas around the nation, to be precise—rollout to only Denver and San Diego. They also priced it more sensibly at $24.99 per month for unlimited service. The new owner never revealed its expansion plans but the underlying theme was that these were just the first two test markets.

Those were the only markets for several years and it quickly became apparent that those would be the only service areas so long as Aerie maintained ownership. Obviously, Aerie executives realized this since they sold the assets yet again for 36% of the price they paid. I don’t know anything about the current owners, but I sure hope that they fulfill the Metricom dream of universal, speedy wireless access.

Why do I care so much about this corporate ricochet story? Because I can’t get DSL out at my house and I refuse to get a cable modem since I have DirecTV, the prospects of Ricochet loom large in my broadband decisions. Their coverage map way back when showed that I could have high-quality, fast wireless service at my house and at my work. Such service is effectively like dial-up in that it follows you but with the speed of broadband.

So here’s hoping that YDI, whoever they are, will finally re-activate Ricochet service in Phoenix and make a successful go out of a great idea. I say hope because the press release linked off of Ricochet’s home page is a PDF browser capture of a page displaying their press release. That’s unnecessarily weird and probably doesn’t mean anything, but it’s not a good start.

The worst case scenario is that Ricochet’s assets keep getting bumped around so often that they will eventually enter my price range for purchase and I can open the network solely for my own usage.