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Ricochet bounces again into new hands

Tue, 06/29/2004 - 8:00pm
Karen Brown

After just seven months, chronically embattled broadband wireless service provider Ricochet Networks Inc. has once again bounced into new hands.

YDI Wireless Inc., a provider of broadband wireless systems and gear, announced it is the new owner of Denver-based Ricochet. It forked over $3 million in cash plus 42,105 shares of its common stock and an unsecured $300,000 note payable over three years to take possession.

Ricochet at present provides wireless broadband Internet access to about 7,000 customers in Denver and San Diego.

At its peak in the late 1990s under Metricom Inc., Ricochet service had 51,000 customers in 17 cities, offering wireless connections at speeds of up to 128 kilobits per second. But the enormous startup costs dragged Metricom $1 billion into debt, and the company was forced to declare bankruptcy in August 2001.

Aerie Networks, which had been planning a nationwide fiber optic network, scooped up the Ricochet network assets for just $8.25 million at a bankruptcy auction in November 2001. It relaunched the service in August 2002 in its hometown of Denver followed by San Diego in November 2002.

Last November the company again was teetering on the edge of shutdown when it was bought for an undisclosed price by EDL Holdings Inc., a company that also oversees Centennial, Colo.-based wireless distributor Advantage Wireless.

Now the fourth outfit to take ownership of Ricochet, Falls Church, Va.-based YDI is looking to the acquisition to expand its wireless technology portfolio, according to a statement by CEO Robert Fitzgerald.

"We see exciting opportunities to integrate Ricochet's technology, including its portfolio of over 30 patents, with YDI's technology to continue to provide industry-leading products and solutions," he said. "We have been very impressed with the stability and quality of Ricochet's mesh technology networks and feel that these offerings will be well received by YDI's service provider customers."

Fitzgerald also indicated YDI will try to expand Ricochet's partnerships with government agencies to provide emergency response communications, and it will try to re-light the Ricochet network in cities the service abandoned, including New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Baltimore, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Dallas/Fort Worth, Minneapolis, and Washington, DC.

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