August 2, 2001
7:43 PM   Subscribe

Another "new economy" company bites the big one. A month ago Metricom filed for chapter 11. Tomorrow they're shutting down the Ricochet wireless network, leaving their subscribers high and dry. Employees are getting one week of severance pay. They're leaving behind $1 billion in debt. (It's Webvan all over again.)
posted by Steven Den Beste (19 comments total)
Didn't they (Ricochet) waste a lot of money on their female James Bond ads?
posted by riffola at 8:34 PM on August 2, 2001

Female and male - Miss Richot, and Chet. The ads were supposed to remind you of the Avengers - or at least some alternate universe Avengers where Steed & Emma Peel spend breathless dangerous afternoons in the back of a cab wirelessly transmitting Powerpoint presentations.

The ads made this sound like high adventure.

I heard the ads hourly for two weeks, and I had no idea what they did. Other than annoy the hell out of me.
posted by lileks at 8:58 PM on August 2, 2001

I'm posting from a laptop on Ricochet right now. There's nothing like sitting at an outdoor cafe after midnight drinking with friends and singing together while reading lyrics found on the net. Other wireless methods aren't even close to what Ricochet offers today (though maybe not tomorrow).
posted by example at 11:15 PM on August 2, 2001

Heh. I know two people who just signed up for Ricochet.
posted by kindall at 11:30 PM on August 2, 2001

Webvan folded with net assets, not debts.
posted by NortonDC at 12:02 AM on August 3, 2001

Having read through the auction order, it seems unlikely that the service will actually go dark. The bidders registered by the 1st. Monday will see the announcement of the lead bidder including their fronting some earnest money. The Aug. 16 auction only will occur if there is no clear leading bidder. The whole sale will close by Sept. 7. This is the court ordered timetable. The whole assets are being auctioned including the subscriber base which simply won't be there if they turn it off which would make the network far less valuable.

My guess is that somebody like Worldcom (most likely Worldcom in fact) will buy the network and continue operations. Most of the Ricochet backbone support if via the UUNet infrastructure so it would be a good fit for the wireless network to just become an extension of the UUNet backbone.
posted by shagoth at 4:17 AM on August 3, 2001

Goodwill accounted for over $750 million of Webvan's assets in the last 10-Q I could find. Their current ratio was only 1.4 at the end of March, so it's hard to say how many current assets they had left when they filed for bankruptcy. (300,000 sq. foot warehouses available now at low prices!) You can also see that they had an accumulated deficit of $829 million. To fail so spectacularly in such a short time is truly impressive.
posted by Chairman_MaoXian at 4:27 AM on August 3, 2001

I wish they just would have sold the transmitters for private use, like rogue 811 networks. Oh well.
posted by mecran01 at 4:32 AM on August 3, 2001

I remember when people laughed when I said companies would slowly install Airport everywhere, making wireless internet more ubiquitous. "It's already here," they bellowed, "it's called Richochet." They snickered some more and pointed and laughed. Good times. Good times.
posted by jacobris at 5:16 AM on August 3, 2001

Their website is still up. They do mention that they are in chapter 11. It's inevitable that wireless will be here one day when they can make it fast and inexpensive.
posted by NJguy at 5:32 AM on August 3, 2001

I was wrong about when it was going to happen. They'll be shutting down service next Wednesday. The whisper is that they simply have no more cash to operate with.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 9:54 AM on August 3, 2001

Another company run by clueless people (as reflected in their stupid, pretentious advertising).
posted by ParisParamus at 10:42 AM on August 3, 2001

On a tangent, the local shoe repair/shoe sales store down the street, run by Russian immigrants, has added a new line: MCI/WorldCom cell phones. I wonder if they every heard of Get Smart.
posted by ParisParamus at 10:43 AM on August 3, 2001

i still miss iridium. the idea of being able to gossip ("girl, i know we just talked. but that was in barcelona. my train just pulled into lisbon. how are you now?") from anywhere turns me into (more of) a trixie (than i already am). is there any trace of their consumer service left..? couldn't find it.
posted by patricking at 11:41 AM on August 3, 2001

I'm amazed they're auctioning off their patents along with everything else.
posted by mathowie at 1:13 PM on August 3, 2001

For that matter, just shut down. (I guess the puppy isn't happy any longer.)
posted by Steven Den Beste at 4:07 PM on August 3, 2001

Writing you from a Ricochet modem.

I am so sad and frustrated. After wrangling with Verizon here on the east coast only to find that my lines were not acceptable, I finally settled into the wireless world. Yeah it was more money and it was slower, but boy, what a cool world it is.

As a dedicated, long term mobile computing enthusiast, the Ricochet modem and network was a breath of fresh air in a technology world that I too often found myself muttering, "yeah, BFD". Finally there was a solution for the rest of the rest of the rest of us to hang out in and deal with the connectivity world.

R.I.P. Metricom. It was nice knowing ya. You are gonna be missed by the 50,000 users who, even with the overblown price, could not generate enough cash flow for you to survive.

Note - this entry comes to you from the quiet, corner seat at Mugs Ale House in Brooklyn NY. A decidedly analog establishment that has singularly re-invented the retro 1994 website. (Yeah, this is a new site as of spring of this year.)

Scary as this place may seem, it has a few things going for it - the tap list is updated ever two weeks, should you venture down here, you will experience some of the best draft beer in the city and people leave you alone when you sit in a corner smacking keys on a keyboard while the rest of the room ponders the fate of the beer drinking world.

I guess I just wanted to make one last post away from my house for old times sake. Thanks for indulging me.

Well, I guess it is back to dialup for now.


Cheers. See y'all round the chicken coop.

posted by sardines at 9:46 PM on August 3, 2001

Those of you carping that this is just another dot bomb a have it wrong. This is an interesting company that came along at the wrong moment. Fast, mobile, ubiquitous access IS coming, it just looks like people aren't waiting for it to work. Here in San Diego I know a number of people who use it like a cable modem or DSL - they have a central machine hooked to Ricochet - and they distriubute the signal to their machines in the house. Add to that, you can take your laptop all over the city and it works.

Add to that, people have been signing up like crazy.

Building infrastructure like that costs BANK, and BANK is not available right now.

Expect their assets to be scooped up by some big telco - one way or another this kind of broadband wireless IS the future - at least in metro areas. Perhaps it's gonna be with 802.11b/AirPort - but it's gotta come.
posted by artlung at 10:07 AM on August 4, 2001

Broadband wireless is the future, but the vendors will be names you know, like Verizon and Sprint PCS and Cingular. The reason is that it does indeed cost a fortune for the infrastructure, and the cell phone companies will be using the same infrastructure that they use to carry their voice traffic. The data access box for you will be your cell phone.

64 kilobits is coming within a year to Verizon, and probably within about the same time window to Sprint PCS. But they're not going to be using the technology that Ricochet used.

A dedicated single-use wireless system isn't economically viable; it can't charge what it would cost to pay back its capital investment. Like satellite cellphones, this was an idea whose time would never come. There was never a question of whether Ricochet would die; it was only a question of how long it would take them to run through their bankroll.

By the way, wireless will never replace land-lines. There isn't enough spectrum available to carry the traffic currently carried on wires, let alone the amount we'll need in 20 years. Wires (or fiber) have no hard upper limit on total bandwidth, but spectrum is a limited resource.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 12:11 PM on August 4, 2001

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