Gotenna Mesh Review

goTenna Mesh Review

Gotenna Mesh Review

One of the coolest technologies we've seen in a long time is the goTenna Mesh. Anyone who is serious about emergency preparedness should get a pair or two. Why?

The goTenna Mesh allow large groups of people to communicate digitally without using cell phone services. They are cheap, easy to use, and don't require a license to operate the way ham radio does.

You use them the same way you use text messaging, instead of using a cell tower you use the goTenna.

Each Mesh is powered by an 24-hour internal battery they are perfect for off-grid or disaster use. They use micro-USB to charge so they can run off a small solar panel. They ware water resistant.

Very cool stuff you need to know about. Let's look into: goTenna Mesh.

Bug-Out-Bag-Builder-gotenna-mesh-2.jpg

What Mesh can do

goTenna Mesh powers a 100% off-grid, mobile, long-range mesh network. Pair this device to a phone or leave in strategic locations to relay communications from device to device. No towers, routers and satellites required.

It is much more powerful than the original goTenna.

  • Off-Grid Phone-to-Phone Connectivity: All you need is the app & a charged battery.
  • Mesh Networking: Automatically hops messages device-to-device to extend range.
  • Private 1:1 & Group Chats: Just like texting, minus the towers (& carriers).
  • Public & Emergency Broadcasts: Sends a 21st-century smoke signal.
  • Message Retry & Delivery Confirmation: Eliminates all guesswork.
  • GPS Location Mapping: Saves & shares pins on free offline maps.
  • Secure Encryption: End-to-end privacy & no back-door.
  • Stationary Relay Mode: Drop units in strategic locations—no phone required.

For an extra $10 a year (with goTenna Plus, more below) you can also:

  • Topographic Maps: View rich detail of the terrain around you.
  • Location Tethering: Automatically send your location to a trusted contact every one, five, or ten minutes.
  • SMS Network Relay: If a goTenna user nearby has cell service, they can transmit your message via SMS to your intended recipient.
  • Trip Statistics: Track & save data like speed, distance, and elevation traveled.
  • Group Delivery Confirmation: In group chats of up to 6, know who has or hasn’t received your messages.

Bug-Out-Bag-Builder-gotenna-mesh-9.jpg

Why you need one

Using a handful of goTenna Meshes a community can setup a very powerful off-grid communication network that can cover an area of a few square miles within minutes. Think about that for a second. That's an incredibly powerful statement.

Lets take a lesson from Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria:

“After the hurricane, reports were that 93 percent of telecommunications were down, and I can tell you, it felt like 100%,” explained Javier Malavé, director of the PR Reconnects project. “I drove around and all the antennas were down, the satellite dishes were down, the transport and backbone layers were down.” *

Bug-Out-Bag-Builder-gotenna-mesh-8.jpg

Local communications via cell phone came to a standstill, for weeks. With today's technology that's unacceptable. goTenna has given us the answer: a decentralized self-created network that is cheap, secure, and easy to deploy.

Frankly it's a no-brainer for anyone who prepares for events like natural disasters.

The SMS Network Relay feature you get with goTenna Plus is really great and something that would have been a HUGE help for the people on the ground in PR after Maria.

Better than radio?

The goTenna Mesh is dead simple to use. If you know how to use a smart phone then you know how to use the Mesh (more on that later.)

Radio's are fantastic, and should be a part of everyone's emergency plans. Read our article on Bug Out Communications to learn more.

But radio has a learning curve. If you don't get a Technician License you can't use the Ham Bands or Repeaters. Without a General License you can't use HF (world wide radio.)

(By the way if you are interested in getting your Ham Radio License we show you how in this article.)

There are some radio frequencies you can use without a license bet they have restrictions and can get crowded and can become useless if too many people are attempting to use the same frequencies.

Bug-Out-Bag-Builder-gotenna-mesh-10.jpg

How to use goTenna Mesh

Believe it or not, you already know how to use a goTenna Mesh.

  1. First download the goTenna app from iTunes or the Google Play Store.
  2. Next pair your phone or tablet to a Mesh via Bluetooth. Follow the prompts in the app and setup your device.
  3. Now you use the goTenna app on your cell phone to send text messages to other goTenna users.

The Mesh units communicate between each other using UHF radio frequencies. The messages are encrypted so can't be read by anyone other than the intended recipient.

You can send texts (1:1 or group), GPS locations or public broadcasts to all users in your area and get delivery confirmation on every message you send.

Bug-Out-Bag-Builder-gotenna-mesh-12.jpg

If you want to see the guts of the goTenna Mesh, check out this tear-down.

Point-to-point or Node Mode?

A goTenna Mesh can be configured in 2 different ways. The traditional setup links a specific Mesh to a specific phone.

There is another option, which is to configure a Mesh into a dedicated Node, which turns it into a relay. It will forward messages it receives without storing them, it just passes them along.

Bug-Out-Bag-Builder-gotenna-mesh-11.jpg

A Node is not connected to a phone to send messages, so you dont link directly to it (unless you are in setup mode) to send messages.

Node mode is best suited for stand alone units which are located in one location, up high, with a power supply of some sort.

You can make a quick and dirty node by hanging one in a tree. Easy!

Some people are making dedicated nodes. On the goTenna forums you can find lots of conversations happening around them. This one is particularly informative.

Bug-Out-Bag-Builder-gotenna-mesh-6.jpg

There are also companies starting to make dedicated self-powered nodes using goTenna Mesh and panels from Voltaic Systems. Check out the "Relay Station" from Tourmaline Wireless.

goTenna MESH Range

Depending on the location and the topography they are setup in, you can get a few miles of range between units: up to 4.0 mi (6.4 km) in open areas and up to 0.5 mi (0.8 km) in dense locations.

The trick is to get them as high up as possible, and away from obstacles. If you can get the units line-of-sight you will get better ranges. These guys were able to get 47.4 miles distance by using Mesh up in two sailplanes!

Since they are so small you can put them on top of a PVC pole, up in a tree, on the roof, or even on a kite to maximize your line of sight.

This range is expanded by using the inherent networking protocols built-into each unit to relay messages back-and-forth.

Each goTenna Mesh will forward messages it receives to other Mesh units.

Currently you can hop between 6 units total. You wont likely see many more than that in the future, the way mesh protocols work you can only get so many nodes and hops before the system falls apart.

Bug-Out-Bag-Builder-gotenna-mesh-5.jpg

The Network

The goTenna team has done something very cool. They have a real-time network map available on https://imeshyou.gotenna.com/.

Mesh users can register their units and notate whether or not they are mobile or being used as a node.

This is very cool because it can give you an idea of how many people in your area are using Mesh or at the very least have gone to the trouble of registering them on the network.

Keep in mind this is not a real-time map. The goTenna's do not register themselves. This is just a static map of people who have registered owning one.

Bug-Out-Bag-Builder-gotenna-mesh-3.jpg

goTenna PLUS

There is a subscription service available from goTenna which increases the functionality of the Mesh. It is only $10 a year right now, but will probably jump up to $29 one day. This is a very worthy upgrade and worth the extra expese because you get:

  • Topographic Maps: View rich detail of the terrain around you.
  • Location Tethering: Automatically send your location to a trusted contact every one, five, or ten minutes.
  • SMS Network Relay: If a goTenna user nearby has cell service, they can transmit your message via SMS to your intended recipient.
  • Trip Statistics: Track & save data like speed, distance, and elevation traveled.
  • Group Delivery Confirmation: In group chats of up to 6, know who has or hasn’t received your messages.

That last one would be very helpful if you have a group setup in your area using these as backup communications. As we mentioned before, the SMS Network Relay is also an incredibly powerful tool.

How much?

A 2-pack goTenna Mesh costs $179 ($89.50 each).

4-pack is $329 (82.25 each).

8-Pack is $579 ($72.37 each).

They offer 15% off if you are active or retired military.

During Black Friday in 2017 they knocked 30% off, so you could get an 8-pack for $405 ($50 each) but if you don't want to wait until then sign up to their mailing list, they regularly have 20% off coupons running.

Where to get them

Buy direct from goTenna.com with free shipping.

Amazon sells 2-packs for $179 with 2-day Prime shipping.

eBay has new and used goTenna Mesh available.

Add new comment

- Optional
*
*

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.
CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Image CAPTCHA
*
Enter the characters shown in the image.
Printer Friendly and PDF