goTenna lets you communicate without cell towers, Wifi or satellites

Martin Brinkmann
Jul 18, 2014
Updated • May 23, 2018
Mobile Computing

If you want to use your smartphone for communication, you either have to be connected to a network of sorts to do so, or use short-range communication technologies such as Bluetooth to do so.

There are however situations where all of these communication options become unavailable. Say you are on a camping trip in the wilderness and lost a group member.

Chance is, you don't have any reception and since that group member is not close by, all the close-range options are not working as well.

A new device that goes by the name of goTenna could be the solution. It enables you to communicate without the need to be connected to a communication network, be it satellite, wifi or mobile data, so that you can remain in contact with others without that.

It is a device that connects via Bluetooth-LE to your smartphone. For that, it needs to be within 20 feet range of the device for the communication to work.

Use specially crafted apps such as a text messaging application to send messages using goTenna. This works by using the app on your smartphone which then sends it to the goTenna device which in turn sends it out using long-radio waves.

The recipient needs to have a goTenna device as well for this to work, but this is the only requirement.

How far?

You are probably wondering how far apart two people can be for the communication to work. The goTenna team has created an interactive app on the website which highlights that.

Range depends on several factors including height and environment. The max range appears to be about 50 miles but that requires you being at least 500ft above ground while the lowest range can drop to zero.

According to the goTenna team, the app assumes ideal conditions so that the "up to" range needs to be seen as a maximum and that ranges may differ greatly depending on the environment and conditions.

The application uses 1024-bit end-to-end encryption to ensure that messages and data cannot be read by anyone listening in on the frequency. The device comes with Flash memory that can store thousands of messages, and a rechargeable Lithium-ion battery.

Closing Words

The device is fairly pricey, at $149 and that is 50% off the normal price and only available during pre-order period. It may still be an interesting option for hunters, backpackers, other people who go off the grid at times and also for people who want to communicate using an app that may be harder to track than standard means of electronic communication.


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  1. Doc said on July 21, 2014 at 10:45 pm

    “For that, it needs to be withing 20 feet range…” “Withing” means weaving twigs, which makes no sense here. The correct word is “within.”

  2. James said on July 21, 2014 at 3:25 am

    This is why I keep promoting Amateur Radio on my FB etc. We were doing text and ASCII(transparent mode)for data It’s range limited only by the capability of your 2 -way radio, band and antennas the bandwidth was horrible, 300 baud on HF, 1200 above 29 Mhz. That’s still 3-4 times faster than I can type!I strongly believe in having some backup to your cell service for disasters when ALL other communications besides perhaps sat phone QUITS. as well as remote locations! We have better digital modes now, that only require connection from sound card via audio cables to the radio. If this supported more than just texting my opinion would be much better!

  3. Blue said on July 18, 2014 at 10:06 pm

    As with all portable communication devices, they all have their limitations. Either range, security, cost, requirements, service fee and type of communication. I’d go for a cell phone signal booster instead which cost $150 on average and up. It supports voice and video calls as well (2G, 3G, 4G and LTE). Can be powered through a 12V car outlet or a 5V USB port via mobile device. The goTenna only supports text messaging.

  4. joe said on July 18, 2014 at 5:09 pm

    Quote from an otherwise interesting post, above –

    ” Closing Words … It may still be an interesting option _for hunters_ , … ”

    Hope “the hunted” ,
    bears, deer and other animals
    who deserve to live as much as you or I do,
    can be helped by technology –
    not killed by it.

    Liked the article very much,
    but I thought there are better application examples
    of this great technology .
    Just my humble opinion…

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on July 18, 2014 at 5:17 pm

      I just meant by it that where hunters go, there are not always other means of communication. Don’t read too much into it please.

      1. joe said on July 18, 2014 at 5:33 pm

        Thank you for understanding, Martin.
        Ghacks is my favorite technology blog.

  5. Maelish said on July 18, 2014 at 3:43 pm

    The price is going to have to come down, way down. But the mob and many other er… private organizations will jump at something like this. They’ll love it! Case in point, the guy smoking weed in their video. They are marketing themselves specifically for illegal activity. LOL!

    Thats not to say I wouldn’t like it myself on trips outside of the country where my phone doesn’t work. But if you put your phone in airplane mode to turn off the cell connectivity, it also turns off your bluetooth… although I can’t swear that it turns off the bluetooth-LE for every phone. And thats something this products hinges on.

  6. Uhtred said on July 18, 2014 at 3:41 pm

    no doubt It probably is a pricey alternative to walkie talkies, but I would hazard a guess that having your does everything smartphone with you doing the job of walkie talkie as well as taking photos, looking at maps, music etc is something that might appeal to those with the disposable income…. an extra string to the bow

  7. Bill Newton said on July 18, 2014 at 3:03 pm

    “The device is fairly pricey, at $149 and that is 50% off the normal price and only available during pre-order period”. “Fairly Pricey”, is an understatement. I can get 2, two way radioes that are waterproof, submersible, float and numerous other features with 50 mile range for $100 USD. And like I said, that’s for 2 of them. No wonder goTenna is trying to dump these things at 50% off.

  8. Dwight Stegall said on July 18, 2014 at 3:03 pm

    It operates on the FRS radio band. FRS is a fancy CB Radio system that you can use walkie talkies, base stations and repeaters on. You can buy FRS walkie talkies at many electronics dealers.

  9. Bill Newton said on July 18, 2014 at 2:52 pm

    Also, to futher my point of “walkie-talkies”, this product’s price seems ridiculous. “The device is fairly pricey, at $149 and that is 50% off the normal price and only available during pre-order period”. For $100 USD I can have a weatherproof, submersible, floating, etc. that is good for 50 miles! No wonder goTenna is trying to pass them off at 50% for just ONE unit!

    1. XenoSilvano said on July 18, 2014 at 7:01 pm

      $149 (%50) is for a pair.

  10. Bill Newton said on July 18, 2014 at 2:19 pm

    It’s what we use to call “Walkie Talkies”

    1. XenoSilvano said on July 18, 2014 at 6:53 pm

      More like walky-texty

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