Telecommunications

goTenna lets you send text messages when there's no network available

goTenna lets you send text mes...
The goTenna provides connectivity for sending text messages when mobile networks are unavailable
The goTenna provides connectivity for sending text messages when mobile networks are unavailable
View 8 Images
The goTenna provides connectivity for sending text messages when mobile networks are unavailable
1/8
The goTenna provides connectivity for sending text messages when mobile networks are unavailable
goTenna is a 2-watt radio with an antenna and a range of up to 50 miles
2/8
goTenna is a 2-watt radio with an antenna and a range of up to 50 miles
goTenna uses low-frequency radio waves to let users send text messages and share GPS locations with other users
3/8
goTenna uses low-frequency radio waves to let users send text messages and share GPS locations with other users
goTenna is a 2-watt radio with an antenna and a range of up to 50 miles
4/8
goTenna is a 2-watt radio with an antenna and a range of up to 50 miles
goTenna is designed to be rugged, weather-proof and dust-proof
5/8
goTenna is designed to be rugged, weather-proof and dust-proof
The goTenna app will automatically retry message sending, notify users when a message has been sent, send group, encrypted and "self-destructing" messages
6/8
The goTenna app will automatically retry message sending, notify users when a message has been sent, send group, encrypted and "self-destructing" messages
goTenna is available in a variety of colours
7/8
goTenna is available in a variety of colours
goTenna is available for a pre-sales price of $149.99 per pair, after which they will retail for $299
8/8
goTenna is available for a pre-sales price of $149.99 per pair, after which they will retail for $299

When a mobile network is down, overloaded or simply out of range, it can be certainly be inconvenient or potentially much worse. goTenna aims to keep mobile devices connected regardless of network status by creating its own network over which users can send messages to each other.

goTenna is somewhat reminiscent of the Be-Bound mobile app, which uses SMS messaging to provide internet access when there is no 3G or Wi-Fi availability. Where Be-Bound allows users to use email, check the weather and read the news, amongst other functionality, goTenna was developed with more serious applications in mind.

The device was conceived in the US towards the end of 2012 in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. According to the Federal Communications Commission, the storm knocked out around a quarter of cell towers across a 10 state area, leaving people unable to communicate when it was most critical. Siblings and goTenna founders Daniela and Jorge Perdomo saw that there would be a benefit to people being able to communicate in such situations via their mobile phones regardless of mobile network service.

"Our mission is twofold: to let people communicate whenever and wherever they want,on their own terms, and also to make sure that in times of a true emergency, people areable to reach others around them," says Daniela Perdomo.

Prototype devices were created at Brooklyn hackspace NYC Resistor and continued development was followed by seed funding in late 2013. Investors include Bloomberg Beta, Collaborative Fund, Brooklyn Bridge Ventures, Andreessen Horowitz and MentorTech Ventures.

goTenna is a 2-watt radio with an antenna and a range of up to 50 miles
goTenna is a 2-watt radio with an antenna and a range of up to 50 miles

The device itself is a 2-watt radio with an antenna and a range of up to 50 miles. It uses low-frequency radio waves to let users send text messages and share GPS locations with another goTenna user. According to the company, the device is powered by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that lasts for about 72 hours with intermittent use or for around 30 hours with constant use. If not in use, it will retain its charge for about a year and half.

goTenna pairs with an iOS or Android device via Bluetooth low energy. Its app will automatically continue to try and send a message until successful and will notify users when a message has been sent. It is possible to send group messages, to send encrypted and "self-destructing" messages to maintain privacy and to "shout" broadcasts to anyone within range.

It's designed to be rugged, weather-proof and dust-proof and, at 5.8 x 1 x 0.5 in (147.3 x 25.4 x 12.7 mm) and 57 g (2 oz), is very portable. In addition to providing a means of communication when cell towers have been knocked out after natural disasters, goTenna can be used at major sports events when networks are overloaded, or when hiking out of network range. It can also be used as a free means of communication with friends or family when on holiday.

goTenna is available for a pre-sale price of US$149.99 per pair, after which they will retail for $299.

The video below provides an introduction to the goTenna.

Source: goTenna

18 comments
ivan4
As it stands it is only legal in the US - anywhere else in the world it needs a transmitting licence.
piperTom
ivan4, how did you find that out? Their website says "pending FCC approval". I decided not to buy, based on that lack of approval (also on the poor quality of their website, generally).
ivan4
From the Register GoTenna: How does this 'magic' work?
Dax Wagner
It seems that this really isn't really that useful unless everybody else also has one... especially in emergency situations. It would need to be adopted widely to be worth that price.
nicho
The range is abysmal and it only works if the other party has one as well. In an emergency you're better off having a pair of two way radios.
esar
I wonder why cell phones cant be made to connect to each other creating their own network
hkmk23
This looks like a scam, nothing else. The alleged frequency is 155-154Mhz (or the 2 meter band) the range of a 2 watt transmitter in this frequency is (for rule of thumb) only line of sight plus 10%. Normal use range is around 1/2 to 3 miles outdoors. From one mountain top to another in perfect weather you might get 8-10 miles. I know because I am a licensed radio amateur and regularly use 144Mhz at 5 watts. The chances that this would get licensed for use anywhere in the world is virtually nil. As another poster said, buy a couple of two way radios. As another asked why can mobiles not talk to each other? Because the phone companies would not earn any money from that! Simple.
Short Fuse
@esar I think most today's cell phones can connetct to each other by bluetooth. Range is a problem, as it doesn't go very far (like 60 m or so). But yes, it would be much more sound if manufacturers would start thinking along these lines.
ivan4
GoTenna: How does this 'magic' work? http://www.theregister.co.uk/2014/07/21/gotenna_talks_radio_bollocks_most_tech_websites_parrot_it/ It is also worth reading some of the comments - the technical ones are very good, the others are typical Register banter. As Dax Wagner and nicho say, it is cheaper and better to use normal two way radios, they give better range and use normal voice. This device is a supposed 'solution' looking for a problem and requires a very large number to be in use to be of any use. To get the large number out on the streets they would need to sell for less than $10 each.
martinkopplow
@ easr: If cell phones could connect to each other or even form their own dynamic network, the cell phone network providers who sponsor most of the cell phones people have via their rates, would not earn a cent, right? I think that answers the qestion. It would be technically possible to have them connect. It would drain a bit more battery, since there would be a constant data overhead sent and received in order to maintain the network, but it would still be possible.