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Ricochet Bounces Back 51

Unstrung writes "Things to do in Denver when you're alive. Wireless data pioneer Ricochet has reinvented itself as a company that brings broadband internet access where the big guys fear to tread, starting in, er, Denver."
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Ricochet Bounces Back

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  • Aaronson says the company will have some "interesting announcements" about combined Ricochet/WLAN products down the road Maybe it will be "Hey this time we won't screw you by selling you a $400 dollar modem the day befor we stop service and pull out of the market"
  • for god's sake if you're an editor, put the words in order
    someone should let t0qer [] know since apparently he used to work for ricochet and has less than pleasant things to say about it and many reasons whi it failed
  • Some links... (Score:3, Informative)

    by countach ( 534280 ) on Saturday August 17, 2002 @09:55AM (#4088605)
    Their web site is here [] complete with wierd music and all. And Denver Business Journal article here [].
  • I'm typing this over my 802.11b wireless broadband connection right now. (spare me the lack of security comments, they have it set up pretty well). Ricochet SHOULD consider 802.11b to be a serious competing technology. It's getting cheaper and easier to set up a few towers around a town and provide access to just about anybody that wants it. Verizon & Adelphia were dragging their feet bringing broadband to my hometown until a couple of start-ups provided high-speed access for cheap (cheaper than the $100/mo 128k SDSL that was here anyway. $50/mo for 1.4mbit/128k) and now they're running to catch up. Ricochet will soon be joining them in the big game of catch up.
  • The major problem being that the service was way too expensive. Metricom used to charge $375 for the modem and $70 a month for unlimited Internet access ...

    The Ricochet modem is now $100, and unlimited monthly access costs $45.

    As someone that's been with Ricochet from the start, I wonder if they're offering a $275 rebate on the modem now that it's so cheap?

  • I really don't care. We have a first class phone company in Qwest that offers a top-notch DSL service with MSN as the provider. Like the Qwest advertisement says - MSN offers premium service and content! So then what's the point? Why would I EVER switch from that?

    Yeah, right. Or maybe it goes like this: I get to shell out an EXTRA $20/month so those worthless thieves don't switch me to that abomination of an ISP (I'm officially a "business" customer so am immune from being switched).

    I've been waiting for AT&T to get off their @sses and get cable in here (downtown Denver) so I can ditch Qwest as a phone (kick up my cell minutes to compensate) AND DSL provider. Maybe (hopefully) now I really WILL have an option. I'd much rather kick up the minutes on my cell and use someone else for Internet access than stick with the current Nazi regime

    • Re:As a Denverite (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      If you have Qwest for DSL you can choose your ISP. I use a great local ISP in MN and have been very happy with the service.

      Qwest DSL []
    • Re:As a Denverite (Score:2, Informative)

      by dolmant_php ( 461584 )
      I live in Golden (15 minutes west of Denver, for those who don't know) and we're not connected to Qwest at all. We get phones (local and long distance) and internet from AT&T, and we've got a dish for television. It's nice to know we won't be screwed by the Fourth Reich.

      Concerning Richochet: I'm very happy with my cable service, and probably won't switch. But new stuff is always fun, so who knows?
    • Qwest has a long way to go before I'd consider it a "good" alternative. I'm aware of people who cannot use Qwest DSL because of line incompatiblity problems, stated incompatibilities with certain (well-known) ISPs, etc. Last I heard, Qwest has done little or nothing to resolve these issues. And when you consider the fine recently imposed for deceptive /fraudulent business practices, its current debt load, and what it paid its departing CEO for getting it where it is, you have a company that needs a serious overhaul.
    • Heh, good start... almost got me there. :-)

      Now, one more thing to consider; I am a somewhat content Qwest DSL (but no ISP) customer (about only thing they do quite ok is physical DSL line... that is, once you manage to get it, it works well); I use a local kick-ass medium sized ISP so I have no big complaints. However, Qwest is heading for bankrupcy (50-50 chance I think), and right now they are not expanding their network at all. Thus, if you are in an area they offer DSL in, it's ok choice, and even through bankcrupcy proceedings things might work ok... but if not, you are SOL.

      For that reason perhaps Ricochet's strategy is not stupid at all. In metro-Denver (~2 million people) they may have good chance, since the biggest competitor is in big trouble, and even in the best possible case (for Qwest), competitor is not expanding their coverage. ATnT may be some competition... hard to say. But they don't allow using other ISP, and their choice of ISP used to pretty much suck (according to co-workers who had their cable modem).

  • From VantagePoint's website []:

    VantagePoint Venture Partners is one of the nation's largest venture capital firms with more than $2.5 billion in committed capital.
    How's that for financial backing?
  • From the article:

    "The users weren't mobile... you could own 1,000 percent of the mobile business market and still go bankrupt," snorts Ricochet's new president and CEO Mort Aaronson...

    Ehhh...Que?...Perhaps their previous business model failed due to a flawed understanding of ratios.
  • For $45, I'll be all over it, and so will lots of other folks I know. My neighborhood was covered before, so hopefully it will be again.

    Replacing my $26 (!) Verizon phone line and $12 dialup with Ricochet is a no brainer.

  • 1) Aerie bought all remaining Ricochet assets for well under $5M - all the existing hardware, and patent rights. They have hundreds of semi's (trucks) full of Ricochet hardware sitting in a warehouse yard (in Denver, I think). That equipment, and Ricochet's IP, along with some clever attepmts to re-leverage this service back into a commercial arena is all that Ricochet really is. Read on...

    2)Aerie *did not* get rights to the municipal utility poles that the Ricochet hardware is mounted on. They are renegotaiting rights to those poles at rates far below what Ricochet was able to extract (this will not be as easy as it sounds, and will be enormously time consuming - Aerie doesn't have a lot of time. Ricochet *did* pay too much for these rights, but again, it will take too much time for Aerie to renegotiate with municipalities. (see #3)

    3. Aerie has just so much cash to burn. They were doing another network play that was failing when the Ricochet 'oppotunity' came along. They used some of the cash from their last funded venture to secure the Ricochet assets. Here's the rub: that money will run out within a year - maybe sooner. Aerie needs to procure 'x' subscribers by the end of the year to continue. (I've forgetten the exact number, but it was in the tens-of-thousands - around 50-60 thousand within the year, I think, maybe a few ten-thousand more).

    Why do they need that number? Because they have to be able to manufacture additional modems and other equipment when their current stored supply runs out. This is a highly leveraged play in an environment that has very substantial new players coming forward.

    Ricochet is now just a leveraged asset play compared to others efforts that are doing R&D, have product, a brand that didn't fail, etc. Thus, it's all but almost over for Ricochet. This is a 'last gasp' leveraged play they will garner some nominal level of excitement and buzz because Ricochet was popular in the press when it was operating. Futher, Aerie announced a lot of this many months ago, but in the near-long-term it will not be enough, time and money are disappearing.

    4)They're signing up regional 'rights-holders'to sell sevices into their respective regions - they've done this in LA and Denver - I know they're working on a few more. (btw, they're keeping the SF Bay area to themselves, because they think they can generate enough subscriptions themselves to real estate, medical, and municipal groups to make their subscriber requirement in the region [byw, the Bay area loved Ricochet]))

    5)If they (Aerie) don't achieve critical mass sufficient to be able to continue to manufacture additional equipment *or* they run out of money (and I wouldn't count on them getting additional rounds if they don't meet very critical milestones), then they're toast (even if they do meet milestones, their VC(s) will be sweating). I think Aerie had about $8M left when they did the Ricochet purchase. (btw, I don't quite remember what the *exact* purchase price of the Ricochet assets was - it could have been way under $5M, the number I stated earlier...however, that doesn't change the fact that Aerie is running on borrowed time).

    Aerie is - with due respect - a bottom feeder - trying to leverage a once good business idea and technology who's time has come and almost gone.

    Again, what's crucial here is that for those buying into Ricochet a second time, there is no guarantee that they won't get stranded again. Frankly, I think they will get stranded.

    Frankly, if I were Aerie, I would find a partner willing to aggressively do something with the patents, look for regional providers who were community based (even not-for-profits, or non-profits) and license what they've got to already enabled communities for reasonable rates. In other words, open this thing up. It won't happen though, because this is all about a limited leveraged play that is already hanging by a thread.

    Aerie doesn't have the *time* to build out, because they have a venture funder breathing down their back. Good money is not chasing bad these days - it's all but over. There are many community wireless-based ways they could go with this, but it probably won't happen, as they have a very tunnel vision view of what's possible in this domain.

    Bottom line: there are commercial (e.g. real estate)professionals who will re-up with Ricochet *in already enabled communities* as soon as it becomes available. Ricochet will get some subscribers; however, it won't be enough to sustain Aerie long term, and the whole thing will either get re-sold (probably just the IP), fold altogether, or get parceled out to the already enabled municipalities as a cool emergency backup wireless system.

    If Aerie does manage to survive, Ricochet has little promise of long-term continuance because again, this is a highly leveraged play controlled by a company (Aerie) that is simply tryiong to re-distribute a service - that's all. Even if they succeed short term, it will take a large miracle to get the additional cash to build out new communities, improve their technology, and meet hard charging, better-funded competition.

  • Broadband could use some competition. I am living about 50 miles north of Denver in Loveland. There is DSL but I am not close enough. AT&T Broadband owns the cable franchise but they seem to have no interest in cable modems. Well they keep saying it is coming but I don't think so. The sad thing is 5+ miles up the road from in Fort Collins you can get cable modems from AT&T Broadband.

    Please consider coming to Loveland, CO! I want Broadband!
    • Also a Denverite. I live in the metro area, but there is no DSL, Cable OR Ricochet for me. I am outside of all areas, and my neighborhood is sooo old that nobody gives a damn.

      Stuck at 28.8k and proud.
  • From the article:

    > We want to provide broadband where the other guys can't."

    The article also says:

    > The company has just launched in Denver ... and plans to go back on the air in San Diego soon.

    Were Denver and San Diego without broadband access all this time? And I thought Wisconsin was backwards... Next thing you know they'll set up shop in Palo Alto and Menlo Park. Moooo!
  • I hope they come back to Detroit,... They tried, and went bankrupt before opening up to customers. Wireless broadband is the only hope I have for reasonable broadband (satellite != reasonable). Inside the city of Detroit is such a technological wastezone.

    Go Richochet!
  • I am going to make an educated guess when I say that 90% of you slashdotters have no idea how pocketed Denver is. I don't mean racially or financially, I mean in terms of broadband service. There are ALOT of situations where even a nextdoor neighbor of someone who could get DSL or Cable wasn't in the service area. As a matter of fact, my nextdoor neighbor is a good example. Situations like that make consumers both frustrated and angry, Ricochet already has an advantage just because of the area of availability they'll have. Their prices as well, in Denver and surrounding areas I've heard of prices upwards of $200 a month for a 125kb/50kb service plan. Insane and unacceptable. Ricochet will be the pillar of healing light compared to Qwest and AT&T. One commercial and a couple of radio announcements and BOOM, Ricochet will provide 500 more jobless Coloradans with customer service jobs. My prediction is that they won't be able to produce the modems fast enough to serve all the customers they'll have. The day will come when Ricochet is right next to Cricket in the Mini-Bell department. The day will also come when Qwest is right next to MCI in the ex-monopolite department as well. Their online and phone services are the only thing keeping them from financial trouble.

One can't proceed from the informal to the formal by formal means.