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Ricochet Comeback Imminent Say New Owners

The Ricochet wireless network is getting a second chance at success with the official word from Aerie Networks Monday that it will purchase the platform for $8.25 million.

A U.S. Bankruptcy Court in San Jose, California Friday approved the sale from now bankrupt San Jose, Calif.-based Metricom. The network was once valued at $1 billion.

The new Denver-based owners, which at one time bid $20 billion for the system, say they can't wait to get the Ricochet service back on line.

"Ricochet has had an incredibly loyal customer base that has made it clear that they want their Ricochet back. As a former customer, I too am passionate about restarting the Ricochet service," says Aerie president and CEO Mort Aaronson.

But will it cost as much as before? Subscribers once shelled out $300 for a modem and then as much as $80 a month for 128Kb transfer speeds.

Not likely, according to Aaronson. That is if the company can make some great partnerships, perhaps bringing the high-speed wireless network back as a pseudo-utility.

"In order to bring it back, we will create partnerships to provide the service at a new lower price point than previously offered and make it available to millions of users where they buy other related products and services," says Aaronson.

Parts of those partnerships include rekindling government contracts first established by Metricom. The company had originally developed the technology to monitor utility readings in the field. At one time Metricom's Ricochet system reached out to 51,000 subscribers in 14 states.

Now, instead selling it only to customers, Aaronson says he hopes to sell the Ricochet service to cities or other resellers, which will then turnaround and offer it to residents.

"It's good news for those that have not been able to get high speed access, it's good news for Ricochet users with the promise of restarting the service, and it's good news for the telecommunications industry with positive news of rebuilding value," says Aaronson.

The biggest obstacle for Aerie at this point seems to be getting the nearly 16,000 Ricochet transmitters back online. The radio-style devices, which were shut down by order of the Bankruptcy Court, are under the jurisdiction of various local government entities.