Ricochet to Try Wi-Fi, WiMax in Denver

By Eric Griffith

April 03, 2007

The WISP that famously survived the Internet bust is preparing to embrace modern wireless broadband standards.

Denver, Colorado-based Ricochet Networks is moving its hometown wireless network to a new technology. At least, it's new for them. You may know it as Wi-Fi and WiMax.

Remember Ricochet? Metricom launched the wireless ISP way back in 1994 and unwired 21 major U.S. cities with proprietary wireless modems -- but the company went into bankruptcy in 2001, leaving a few thousand subscribers in the lurch. The network trademark, technology and patents skipped from owner to owner until landing with equipment maker Terabeam in 2004.

The company re-opened its Micro Cellular Data Network in its home city of Denver, Colorado in 2002, and it continues to be used today. Ricochet also provides service in San Diego, California. It has a 500 square mile footprint in total between the two cities. Typical user speeds go up to about 175 Kilobits per second (Kbps) with occasional higher bursts, according to Ricochet president Judi Evans. The MCD network runs in the 900 MHz radio frequency spectrum.

Ricochet now has a new agreement with the city and county of Denver to build mesh Wi-Fi, WiMax and other wireless broadband services into its offering.

The first areas of the city to get this new service, dubbed "Wi-Fi in the Mile High," will be the 2.5 square miles around Denver's Capitol Hill and Golden Triangle downtown. It's not live yet, and Evans says they're not releasing any timetables. Even as it goes live, the proprietary Ricochet network will remain in operation, but Evans says, "Over the long term, Wi-Fi will be the evolution of the network footprint in the city and the county."

Terabeam also owns another previously troubled company, Proxim, a maker of many Wi-Fi and WiMax products. So it's only natural that the two subsidiaries would get together -- the new network will use Proxim Tsunami MP.11s for backhaul and the AP-4000-MR mesh router for client connections.

Ricochet claims to have 6,000 current users in Denver, a mix of residents, businesses, and the city itself -- Ricochet's MCD modems are found in many first responder vehicles.

Basic service with Ricochet costs $25 a month, or more to get extra features like e-mail and Web hosting space.



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