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Metricom Ricochet commences high-speed data rollout  
Friday, June 30, 2000 | by
If you've recently relocated to San Diego or Atlanta, pat yourself on the back for making such a brilliant move. Why? Because Metricom's high-speed wireless Internet access, called Ricochet, will be rolling out in the two southern U.S. cities at the end of July, with 19 more metropolitan areas to follow by year's end, and another 25 by mid-2001. If you like the thought of transmitting digital photos at 10K/second or more while driving down the Interstate at up to 70mph, Ricochet may be for you.

Ricochet's wireless, radio-based Internet service isn't new. It has been deployed in the San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle and Washington, DC, as well as at certain airports and college campuses, over the past 5 years. What is new is the speed. Up until now, Ricochet has operated at up to 28.8kbps, and has therefore offered upload speeds just shy of today's fastest landline modems. The high-speed Ricochet network will operate at 128kbps, which should translate into being able to send three 500K JPEG photos to an FTP server in under three minutes, as compared to 9-10 minutes to send the same photos over an uncongested landline connection. The service is also always-on; activate the Richocet unit and you're connected.

The photographers at the all-digital San Francisco Chronicle photo department have been using Ricochet's current, slower-speed service extensively to move D2000 photos back to the paper. During a recent consulting visit to the Chronicle I developed a bad case of Ricochet Envy as I listened to the staff talk about the ease with which they transmitted photos from the field. Their only real complaint was coverage: as soon as they left Ricochet's extensive Bay Area coverage zone, they were forced to do like the rest of us and hunt down a landline!

The new high-speed service isn't going to be cheap. For unlimited monthly access, expect to pay between US$60-100. One of two Ricochet modems, both of which connect to a serial or USB port, will start at about US$250-300. But if it works as seamlessly at 128kbps as the current 28.8kbps service does now, Ricochet may prove irrestible to digital photojournalists fortunate enough to work in a city offering the service.

Getting Ricochet

To become Ricochet empowered at 128kbps, you'll need:

To work in an area with Ricochet coverage. Cities with high-speed Ricochet service by the end of this year include: Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Diego, San Francisco, St. Louis, Salt Lake City, Seattle and Washington, DC. Coverage maps show the portions of each metropolitan area that are expected to have service.

High-speed Ricochet service, which will be available not from Metricom itself, as has been the case up until now, but from third party providers. They include WorldCom and its subsidiaries UUNET and SkyTel, Juno's Juno Express, and Wireless WebConnect! (WWC).

A high-speed Ricochet GS or GT modem. Both units will connect to either a serial or USB port, and are small enough and light enough to be velcroed to the case of the laptop. No special software is required to drive these modems.

For more information on Richochet, check out yesterday's article in the San Francisco Chronicle, as well as Metricom's web site.

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