Linksys, Ricochet unveil wireless WAN router

Linksys Group Inc. has teamed up with Ricochet Networks Inc. to build a router for homes, small offices and public wireless LAN hot spots that uses Ricochet’s wireless wide-area data service, the companies announced Monday.

Users can attach an 802.11 wireless LAN access point to the Linksys Ricochet Router for a fully wireless network, the companies said in a statement. Alternatively, they can hook as many as four computers or other devices up to the Ricochet wireless service through four 10/100M bps (bit-per-second) Ethernet switch ports in the router.

The router, priced at US$119.95, is equipped with a PC Card slot for a Ricochet wireless WAN (wide-area network) card, which is sold separately.

Home users can use the PC Card in a notebook PC while out of the house and then plug the same card into the router for shared Internet access over a LAN when they get home, said Matthew McRae, director of broadband at Linksys. In addition, a combined wireless LAN that also uses wireless for its WAN (wide-area network) connection can easily be moved and set up anywhere in the carrier’s service area, he said. This may be useful for on-site construction networks and other specialized applications, he added.

Another key market for the router will be consumers and businesses in areas where DSL (digital subscriber line) or cable modem-based broadband Internet access aren’t available, he said.

The Ricochet service, operated over the company’s proprietary Micro Cellular Data Network, operates at about four times the speed of dial-up Internet service, according to the companies. It is currently live in San Diego and Denver and next will become available in Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas. Service in more metropolitan networks will follow, McRae said.

Ricochet, in Denver, is a subsidiary of Aerie Networks Inc. It is currently offering the Linksys Ricochet Router to customers in San Diego and Denver. The network service costs $44.95 per month.

The wireless WAN service provider is in the process of restarting the network built by Metricom Inc. and then shut down in 2001 because of financial problems. When the existing infrastructure is restarted, it will serve 21 metropolitan areas, said Ricochet spokeswoman Kirsten Hamling. The company will announce Tuesday a plan to let other Internet service providers resell Internet access over its wireless network, Hamling said.

Linksys, a major manufacturer of network equipment for homes and small businesses, earlier this month agreed to be acquired by dominant network vendor Cisco Systems Inc.