Ricochet: Another one bites the dust...

Question

Now that Ricochet has gone out of business, what are my options for wireless Internet connections? Having a mobile high-speed Internet connection for my laptop was invaluable!

-Fred

Answer

This question was answered on August 13, 2001. Much of the information contained herein may have changed since posting.

One of the pioneers of the wireless revolution was Ricochet, a high-speed mobile wireless Internet provider that was backed by big names such as WorldCom and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen's Vulcan Ventures.

Imagine having a laptop that could connect to the Internet at relatively high speeds without having to plug into anything By installing their special modem, you could connect in airports, hotels, taxis, a client?s office or your beach house as long as signal was available to the area It was exciting when you found an area that it worked in much like the early days of the cellular phone I was able to test a unit at my home and was extremely impressed with the performance I was able to sustain a 90k connection that allowed me to watch streaming video from the Internet by my pool!

The service was expensive ($75 per month) but every single Ricochet user that I have ever met loved the service and felt it was worth every penny The problem is that only 51,000 people nationally loved it enough to sign-up, which made it hard for Metricom, the parent company, to justify the more than half a billion dollars that was invested in bringing the network up in portions of only 17 cities.

So what are your options if your plug got pulled last Wednesday when they officially shut off the service? Unfortunately, if you want the same performance and flexibility, you are out of luck For the time being, the only truly mobile Internet services operate at a paltry 14.4k to 19.2k using the existing cellular networks or are out of this world in cost If a slow mobile connection is better than no connection, check with your cellular vendor to see if they support data connections.

The good news is that several technologies are in the works to fill the void One of the concepts that seems to have a chance of working is called '3G' or 3rd Generation cellular technology 3G-based systems promise to deliver data at speeds of 144k or faster by connecting your computer to the Internet via your cell phone on this new high-speed data network.

The first round of these services is set to launch at the end of this year, but will likely take several more years before it is rolled out nationally Only 'early adopters' that are willing to commit to large monthly charges will likely be using it by next year, if everything goes as planned (and it never does) You can learn more about 3G at http://www.fcc.gov/3G/ .

If you don't need to be that mobile, but simply want a wireless connection around your home or office, you can use a wireless Ethernet based system that will connect you to a hard wired or fixed Internet connection, such as a cable modem, DSL or T-1 circuit.

By installing an 802.11b wireless network card in your laptop and a wireless access point on your home or office network, you can connect up to 150 feet away depending upon how many walls, etc are between you and the access point If you are in open areas, the range can extend up to 2000 feet at lower data rates and some companies are claiming to reach a distance of up to 5 miles with special antennas Learn more about these wi-fi devices from the web sites of vendors such as Cisco, Intel and

3Com.

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Author

Posted by Ken of Data Doctors on August 13, 2001