Ricochet for Handhelds... Someday

It hasn't escaped the folks at Metricom, the Ricochet wireless ISP, that they are missing out on a lot of customers by providing access to only laptop users. Currently, their modems are about the size of a handheld but they do provide wireless access at 28.8 Kbps.

All that is going to change, eventually. Chipmaker National Semiconductor is now designing a special Ricochet chipset that will allow devices with a much smaller form-factor to access the Ricochet service.

And best of all, Ricochet is about to get a speed boost to 128 Kbps. Considering supposedly 56 Kbps modems actually max out at about 40 Kbps, this service will be about three times as fast as a dial up connection. Unfortunately, they will cost about three times as much, too. Metricom is saying the price for monthly service on Ricochet will go up to between $60 and $100 from its current $30.

Though the service is currently available only in San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle and Washington, D.C. they are spending $1.5 billion to roll it out in 46 cities, with Atlanta and San Diego available by the end of July. An additional 19 cities will get coverage before the end of the year. The Bay Area should be up and running with 128K Ricochet by September. Metricom said 25 more cities will have coverage by next summer.

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