Review: goTenna Mesh

Today I tested a really interesting device that has the potential to make a difference to anyone who reads this. the device is the goTenna Mesh.


The goTenna Mesh is a device that lets you create a private network to send and receive text message as well as location data with your cell phone. Here’s the cool trick: It does this without your cell phone being connected to a cellular network. It does this by operating on the 902-928MHz band in North America. That allows two or more of these devices to allow for communication. The more part is the key because the more of these devices that you have, the more of a mesh network that you can create. That means you can extend the range of roughly 4 miles to something much broader. It connects to your phone via Bluetooth and leverages the goTenna app that you can get for iOS and Android. It has a battery that lasts 24 hours and takes an hour to recharge via a microUSB connection. It’s watertight and has a couple of straps for you to hang it off your backpack for example.

Now, all of this sounds very interesting. So to test this, set up one goTenna Mesh on an Android phone, another on my wife’s iPhone, and I took a third one with me on a walk to a local park while my wife remained in our condo. The idea was that I would turn off the cellular data connectivity along with WiFi and then send and receive messages until I was out of range. Now this is an urban area where there are lots of tall buildings. Plus I was walking to a park that was in the opposite side of my condo building. Thus I was fully expecting to not get a whole lot of range out of the goTenna Mesh. But I was in for a bit of a surprise. I was able to get 0.8 miles away before I was out of range. That doesn’t sound impressive, but given all those factors, that’s actually quite good.

The next thing that I did was walked back to roughly 0.6 miles away from my wife and dropped a third goTenna Mesh unit to test the ability to create a mesh network. I simply had to turn it on and hide it someplace. That allowed me to get 1.2 miles away from home before I was out of range. Thus it is easy to imagine that if there were a bunch of these in a geographic area, you could be miles away from another person and still communicate with them. On top of that, if you were in a more open area, you could easily get much more range from each device. That’s not just theory, there is a community of goTenna Mesh users that are growing. When I checked the network map, this is what I saw:

Screen Shot 2018-01-27 at 2.07.11 PM

Clearly, if the goTenna Mesh catches on, it’s very easy to see that this could be useful as an alternate means of communication that doesn’t involve your cellular provider, such as in the event of an emergency. There are other use cases that the company illustrates that show how compelling the product is.

A word about the messages that I was sending and receiving. Everything is encrypted end-to-end. You can choose whether your messages are reaching a specific individual, a group of people, or all Mesh users nearby. On top of that, if your goTenna Mesh unit relays a message, you won’t be able to see it. You can also send your location data along with a map. But strangely, you cannot send photos.

A two pack of goTenna Mesh units is $249 CAD. This technology looks very promising. And based on the use cases that I read about make it very compelling for those who go off grid, or just want a safety net in case the worst happens.


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