A Wireless Ricochet Right Out of DSL Hell

By Henry Baltazar  |  Posted 2001-02-26

After suffering through more than six months of erratic and unfulfilling DSL service courtesy of EarthLink, I have severed my ties with the company and taken to the air in search of that elusive broadband utopia. (For my original tale of digital subscriber line woes, "DSL utopia? It seems more like DSL hell," which appeared in these pages Dec. 11, 2000, go to www.eweek.com/links.)

At $895 (for a wireless modem and a years worth of service), Metricoms Ricochet wireless Internet access service is far from inexpensive, especially when you consider that most DSL subscriptions cost roughly $50 per month.

When you look at this comparison from a performance perspective, the results are downright terrible. Ricochet officials claim the service provides throughput of 128K bps (I got close to 140K bps in my informal tests), while DSL or cable-delivered throughput runs anywhere from 380K bps to over 1M bps.

So why on earth would I shed close to a grand of hard-earned cash to gain my wireless wings? In a word: mobility.

Ricochet allows me to work from virtually anywhere (at least within the Bay area), an extremely important capability considering that I travel a lot. I also dont want to be shackled to another long-term broadband commitment, which would happen if I signed another contract with a broadband cable or DSL provider.

At 128K bps, Ricochets service is far from blazing, but it gets me the information I need and allows me to respond immediately to emergency requests.

With high-speed Internet access still missing from most hotels, I was hoping to use Ricochet during business trips to avoid using slow, expensive dial-up access from my hotel room. So far, in trips to Orlando, Fla., and Champaign, Ill., I havent been able to use Ricochet, but as Metricom expands its network, I hope Ill be able to use it anywhere I go.

Until that time, I recommend Ricochet only for business travelers who spend most of their time in Metricoms coverage zone and dont need an ultra-fast connection. Consumers with deep pockets could also use Ricochet, but it is somewhat cost-prohibitive.

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