Wireless data pioneer Metricom Inc. said it plans to continue offering its flagship Ricochet services despite last weeks bankruptcy filing, and its partners appear willing to stand by the struggling company—for now.
Metricom, of San Jose, Calif., was the first to offer 128K-bps data service, but for months, the company has had trouble gaining financial footing—and backing. In the months leading up to the filing for Chapter 11 protection, John Cornwell, vice president of business development at Metricom, said the company was on the brink of insolvency and that "without further funding, the company is not going to continue operation."
An end to Metricom will almost certainly mean an end to Ricochet, which runs on Metricoms proprietary MicroCellular Data Network. But Metricoms heavyweight partners and resellers said they are not yet ready to plan around Ricochets demise.
"We have faith that Metricom will rise above the problems," said Brant Jones, manager of product marketing for iPaq wireless products at Compaq Computer Corp., in Houston, which began offering Ricochet services for its iPaq line of handheld computers in April, despite Metricoms shaky financial status.
Compaq officials said customers were demanding higher data rates and that, for now, the Ricochet network is the only one capable of providing those services. "Were working on our backup plans, but I dont think its appropriate to issue a statement that, if Metricom goes belly up, heres whats going to happen," Jones said.
Compaq has no plans to suspend or amend its Ricochet service, but neither are there plans for further investment, officials said.
WorldCom Inc., one of Metricoms biggest investors and resellers, also reported plans to stay the course while the company still exists.
"Were certainly still working with them," said Terry Olrysh, a spokesman for WorldCom, in Clinton, Mo. "Right now, everything is operating as it was."
Olrysh said, however, that WorldCom will probably not be able to stick to its plans to offer Ricochet service in 30 cities by the end of the year because Metricom cant make good on those promises. Metricoms Ricochet service reaches only 15 cities—13 with 128K-bps data transfers and two with 28.8K-bps speeds. Metricom officials said expansion plans were in a holding pattern until the company solves its financial problems.
Metricom hired Kevin Dowd, a principal associate at Nightingale & Associates LLC, of Stamford, Conn., as chief restructuring officer.