The Death Of Ricochet, Part II
from the too-bad... dept
I was an early customer of Metricom’s Ricochet wireless modem service in the late 90s. I used their first (slow) network (about 28k) and later their higher speed (128k) service. I was a huge fan, as it was really wonderful – but I’ve always thought their strategy was screwed up. When I was using it, they were my high speed ISP. They were, to me, an alternative to signing up for DSL or a cable modem service at home – with the added benefit that I could take the connection anywhere they had service (which covered all of the Bay Area, and many of the places I traveled). However, they thought they were targeting the “mobile worker” who had a corporate budget to back them up. So, they were charging more than double what DSL costs, and basically priced themselves out of the market, eventually going bankrupt. While bankruptcy negotiations dragged on, all of Metricom’s network was shut down, and the pieces (which Metricom spent a billion dollar building) ended up being sold at auction for around $8 million to a company name Aerie Networks. Aerie eventually rebuilt the system in a couple of test locations, and partly went with the strategy I suggested – offering the service at a lower price point. Of course, in the year between the network getting shut down and Aerie getting it back up again, WiFi took off, and hotspots along with wireless home and work networks started appearing everywhere. Also, others took WiFi and started figuring out how to make wider area solutions with it as well. Suddenly, Ricochet no longer made sense no matter what the price point. It was a proprietary solution that was entirely reliant on one company, when there were plenty of other “good enough” (or in some cases “better”) solutions already showing up. All that said, is it really any surprise that the new Ricochet service appears to be on the verge of shutting down? Apparently just about everyone’s been fired, and the few remaining people are trying to figure out if they can sell off anything before turning out the lights. It seems clear that Ricochet was a good thing that completely missed its window of opportunity.