Ricochet Redux? Mobile Broadband Coming to Australia
By Eric Lin, Thu Nov 20 21:30:00 GMT 2003

A new wireless broadband service called iBurst is expected to soft launch in Sydney next month. The service will come in two flavors: a USB modem fixed location service that will compete with wireline DSL in terms of speed and price, and a PC Card based mobile service that enjoys the same speed, but will cost about twice the fixed location rate.

According to an article in ZDNet Australia (via Techdirt) 10 base stations will launch in Sydney around mid December, but Personal Broadband Australia intends to follow up with 5 more within a month. They are also looking at expanding the service to other major Australian metro areas.

iBurst is faster than the old Ricochet network, and more geographically limited, but it is difficult not to draw parallels. Especially in light of recent news that Ricochet may be shutting down for the second time. Originally available in about 15 US cities, Ricochet never attracted enough subscribers to financially sustain the network (only about 50,000 nationwide). The network was bought by Aerie a few years ago and relaunched in San Diego and Denver, but appears to have run out of money again. Despite recent attempts to compete with wireline broadband in terms of pricing, Ricochet could never match broadband speeds.

For subscribers who rely solely on a mobile phone for voice calls, a fixed wireless broadband system that would eliminate wireline phone charges could be appealing, especially if the speed and price is competitive with wired access. If mobile access will cost twice as much, how will it be able to compete with Wi-Fi services? Whether the mobile service is successful or not, we give Personal Broadband Australia credit for offering 2 different plans, and for starting in a single metro area before making additional geographic investments. It seems as though they have learned from Ricochet's mistakes.