Text without routers, towers, or satellites using goTenna

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goTenna 1

You can now text anyone without internet access or cell service, as long as you and the person you are texting have a goTenna device AND you are within a few miles of each other. How does it work? You first link your phone to goTenna via Bluetooth LE, then download the goTenna app, and register using your phone number or a goTenna randomly generated ID for those using non-phone devices (supported devices include those running at least iOS 7 or Android 4). When you send a text to any other goTenna user within range, the end-to-end encrypted message (224-bit elliptic curve) is sent from your phone to your goTenna via Bluetooth LE then to the recipient’s goTenna via long range radio waves (151-154 MHz) which is then sent to their phone via Bluetooth LE. The range of the device is dependent on your surroundings and the height of the device. If you increase the height and decrease the number of obstructions of the goTenna, you will increase the range. So if you are hiking and wish to increase the range, you might perhaps hang the goTenna on an upper branch of a tree. If you can get the goTenna to an elevation of 500 feet, it is possible to attain a range of up to 50 miles. 

Sample ranges when the goTenna is at a 4-6 feet off the ground:

  • City street to city street: 0.5-1 mile
  • Forest to forest: 2-3 miles
  • Water to water: 4-6 miles
  • Desert to desert: 4-6 miles

Key app features

  • Send & receive text messages for free
  • Share locations on detailed offline maps
  • Instantaneous transmission within range
  • Automatic message retry & delivery confirmation
  • Individual & group messaging
  • ”Shout” broadcasts to anyone within range
  • Proximal friend map & location pinging
  • Emergency chat
  • End-to-end encryption (224-bit elliptic curve) & self-destructing messages
  • Compatible with iOS & Android

Key hardware specs 

  • Antenna
  • 2-watt radio
  • Flash memory good for 1000’s of messages
  • Rechargeable Lithium-ion battery
  • Micro-USB connector
  • BluetoothLE data interface
  • Status indicator lights
  • Nylon attachment strap
  • Water-resistant
  • Dust-tight

The goTenna is a small bar shaped device made of metal and silicone (with a nylon strap) that measures about 5.8 inches by 1 inch by 0.5 inches and extends in length up to 8 inches long. It is water and dust proof and has a lithium ion battery that will work continuously for up to 30 hours and can be recharged using the provided micro USB cable. For more information or to pre-order the goTenna visit goTenna.com. goTenna has a one year warranty and is selling at half price right now for $149.99 for two devices (you may choose between purple and orange or green and blue nylon straps). If this doesn’t work for you, you can always send smoke signals which can be seen for miles and cost nothing. 😉

5 thoughts on “Text without routers, towers, or satellites using goTenna”

  1. Gadgeteer Comment Policy - Please read before commenting
  2. Sorry, but the transmit power level is insufficient to ever reach a range of fifty miles regardless of the height. The author needs to study a little radio theory 101 (or ask a ham radio operator)…

  3. Umm… 151-154 MHz is VHF and is anything but “long range radio waves…”
    VHF is strictly line-of-sight. HF (3 to 30 MHz.) is long range…

  4. Hey Tom, this is Jorge, I run product at goTenna. Seems you forget that transmit power is only one part of a very complicated equation. Receiver sensitivity, antenna efficiency, fade margin, error-correction, and so forth all contribute to what the total final link budget it. So saying “its not enough power for X range” is not really a statement that can be made accurate. Breaking down all the variables at play is way too much to go into on a website comment, but I can assure you that our calculations are in line with industry standard propagation models and are further backed up by our real world testing.

    And Robert, you’re quite right that HF is longer range! But VHF is long range as well, especially compared to regular wireless features in phones such as WiFi and Bluetooth. Its also longer range than regular commercial FRS radios. So in this light we believe that referring to goTenna as a long range radio is appropriate, but we would never dream to say we’re HF-HAM range! Now as for line of sight, I’m afraid you’re a bit mistaken or perhaps just made a bit too strong of a statement, VHF does not *require* line-of-sight, although it certainly helps. We’ve repeatedly established successful transmissions without line of sight, but our range is certainly better if we can get a direct line.

    great to see you guys get engaged here!

  5. @Jorge – Thank you for providing additional information! It is MUCH appreciated.

    @Tom, @Robert – I apologize for my lack of knowledge in this area to be able to more critically read about and report on new products like this, I will try to rectify this in the future.

    I really do try to be accurate in my news posts. So, in that vein, my only defense is that all information in my reports come directly from the creator of the device via their product website and is therefore as accurate as the reported information on the website. In this case all of my information came from the features, tech specs, and FAQ sections of the goTenna website. However, I do promise to research more to be able to better evaluate the claims of devices in the future.

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