(Updated June 7, 2019): Why Gotenna Mesh off-grid communications devices may be superior in some use-cases to Ham radios (e.g. BaoFeng UHF / VHF / FRS / GMRS / MURS HT / Walkies…) for local /tactical short range communications in a disaster area? Top 20ish reasons why and some minor suggestions on installation BEFORE deployment are humbly presented:
*Touch base and download new offline install file for 5.0.2 ( .apk 77.4MB from 3rd party websites like apkpure…), offline maps, and firmware quickly if deploying soon. May want to find a buddy with an iOS device in case firmware updates get stuck on android.*
I’ve respectfully provided some points below to consider why Gotenna (or Sonnet Labs Mesh or Power Talkie or Contact #CallForCode) may be superior to Ham in some instances, such as unlicensed volunteers, HIPAA data Tx/Rx, internationally, or in very LOW POWER / high mobility situations for short range tactical comms (in concert with HF for long range).
Pros of Gotenna Mesh / Sonnet Labs, et al. vs. Ham Radio (Top 20ish reasons):
- Gotenna Mesh is the only radio asset capable of encrypting and transmitting encrypted private medical information and thus being technically legal for hospital to shelter or Emergency Operations Center HIPAA health-related transmissions. *In contrast, ham / WinLink cannot use encryption, and even then may still be in violation of FCC rules, arguably concealing / obscuring the encoded message payload data which may violate FCC rules for ham / amateur radio operation.?*
- Gotenna is the ONLY radio asset that any civilian, loved one, or volunteers without an FCC ham license may legally use. Many volunteers in the incident chain of disaster ICS/NIMS scenarios are legally forbidden from using many of the Ham radio technologies. Gotenna, at present, is the ONLY radio that no license is needed for anyone to use. They can even be used, legally, transiting across international and state lines, airport inspection, customs / immigration,…. Gotenna intelligently sets frequency and power settings automatically to comply with EU / US, et al., law. They don’t look like big radio eqpt with antennas that makes certain countries or X-ray operators nervous about. This enables your team to land and get to helping much quicker on assigned frequencies.
- Versus a cheap, handheld FRS/GMRS radio, Gotenna adaptively makes available almost twice the power for transmissions. Gotenna Pro does offer 5 Watt variants. AND requires no setup, talkgroup, or finding the right channel / squelch / tune… no channel-testing required. Can be sure that it will work. Or will receive NO RECEIPT message.
- Gotenna provides out of the box offline TEAM map integration, aprs, ctak, civtak, atak, gps and SMS message sharing with confirmation of receipt — even across up to six relay / repeaters and, optionally, any upward available datalink to any phone number in the world.
- Gotenna is the only radio asset that provides 100% auditable record keeping, information sharing, and situational awareness / handoff for DHS / FEMA Incident Control ICS National Incident Management NIMS purposes. Showing all Tx / Rx and confirmations.
- Gotenna is good enough for the Navy Seals, Marines, FBI / DOJ, DHS, CBP, Coast Guard, Fema, Rangers… and is a trusted, Made in America IQT / -DOD, Woman-Owned multi-million dollar contractor.
- Gotenna may be the only pocketable offline* bitcoin / wallet / satellite interface for funds in disaster areas with runaway inflation / gouging / debit / ebt offline situation.
- Gotenna Mesh is the only device setup for automatic repeater functionout of the box. Each unit is programmed to automatically repeat any message it encounters to the rest of the group and receive messages from all other units. No setup required.
- With Frequency Hopping Spread Spectrum FHSS and CSMA CD CAavoidance and resilience against noise and interference, even against censorship / jamming, it’s robust. Great LOS ranges. Especially after emergency or disaster, low noise floor when no other power for mouses, keyboards, microwaves, are off. Elevation is your friend for ranges. (up to 62 miles by airplane / drone / heliostat.)
- Gotenna Mesh is the only encryption-capable radio device that can be exported, shared with civilians, volunteers, ngos, communities, or foreign organizations without any red-tape, certification, or licenses. They are so cheap that they are basically disposable and the encryption is the only available FOSS open source encryption allowed by law without a DOC foreign export license? While GOtenna is NOT open source, they do make an SDK available and there is a FOSS project on GitHub reverse engineering and using the public emergency features of the message protocol. Also, Mesh Developer Toolkit (iOS only) does provide an open source java scripting app.
- Gotenna Mesh may not be waterproof or playa-proof, but it is ip66 Milspec-ish? and the PRO unit is ip68 water / dust / shock proof. They held up pretty well in our real world Hurricane / wildfire tests by DHS DMAT, local volunteers, and CERT units; they survive multiple drone drops from tens of feet, extreme humidity, and dust. (Using a non-metal enclosure may be helpful).
- Cannot beat Gotenna’s simplicity… and familiarity using own phone(android / iOS/ smartwatch). Anyone who can use an iphone can use one with simple SMS or more detailed APRS / ATAK / CTAK type interfaces. Designed idiot-proof to send messages and locations. Simple. They just work.
- Gotenna mesh / Power Talkie / Sonnet Labs mesh / LoRa work with waterproof devices that survivors and first responders already have on them (and are likely to take in field, on the run, or in shelter with universal chargers)… iwatch, iphone, samsung, sonim, cat phones… devices with GPS and aGPS and cell / wifi backhaul built in. Sonnet Labs device will work with ANY device with wifi and a browser.
- Extremely low price ($70ish each Gotenna) *get the volunteer, first-responder discount or bulk discounts or used ones on ebay. Sonnet Labs units are about $50 a piece (discount with preorder still available).
- Gotenna provides FREE SMS ?TEXT911? text message relay/ remote posts/ twillio / custom web server backhaul digipeter functionality like APRS (Mesh Developer Toolkit and/or GotennaPlus free trial) and scripting. Some degree of open source, e.g., SDK (enhanced features available on Mesh Developer Toolkit).
- ULTRA low power efficiency: Gotenna functions at 1 watt versus 5–8 watts ham radios like Bao Feng for sameish line of sight (LOS) incredibly .6 to 2 to 5 miles, even 62 miles via drone. Power is not linear, and 1 watt may provide less multipath interference vs. 5–8watts in some environments actually making for better signal / range. Gotenna’s FHSS enable it to maximize noise avoidance and avoid interupting other traffic.
- Gotenna Mesh only draws 100 milliamps or.1amp for charging!!! less than a watt…charges with ANY microusb, solar, or cell charger; can even use your phonecharger or your phone itself (usb-c or otg) to charge gotenna FROM THE PHONE INDEFINITELY! Can you charge a BaoFeng FROM your phone with a $4 cable? or a keychain solar cell? Need at least 8watts 12Volts to charge a BaoFeng ham radio compared to 1watt 4.74V for Gotenna Mesh.
- +6 hop repeater / rebroadcast / backhaul functionality without ANY infrastructure. Your message can bounce off of other nodes up to six times with no advanced setup. You can even hoist one or two gotenna permanent relays up in trees or on the roof for crazy range! #TacticalBreadCrumb disposable repeaters. and with the SMS gateway smsRelay text911??? any hospital / lifeflight can be reached.
- +e911 text 911 smsRelay hearing impaired emergency services may be possible in your area from Gotenna* Check local 10 digit backup number for county. 100% Text 911 available in all 78 municipalities of Puerto Rico. Florida is only about 80%. Nevada seems to be covered. Many states have coverage. Best to check before travelling.
- +Gotenna Mesh does not require FCC licensure, tests, fees, classeslike Baofeng / Ham does under FCC rules. ANY idiot can use Gotenna without any classes or tests or fees and there are safeguards baked-in to avoid them interfering with first responders, leos, and others. (e.g. 5 tx limit on user transmissions, ultra low bandwidth, text/gps only, short gps-tagged bursts which frequency hop and spread their spectrum FHSS, CSMA CD collision avoidance type listen-first before transmit politeness and steward of common spectrum.
- BaoFeng type Hams are technically illegal according to the FCC to the extent they allow FRS GMRS at 5–8 watts? or access to unlicensed frequencies… whereas Gotenna is 100% legal and quiet/polite 1watt short bursts (cannot block or overwhelm other signals) in all countries as it dynamically adjusts it’s frequency and broadcast power (and dutycycle, Tx limit) automatically based on gps location, congestion, and local laws.
- +try throwing your ham radio up a tree, flag pole, on the roof, on a drone up 400ft for better signal? Gotenna is only the size and weight of a cigarette lighter. It’s rugged and it has CRAZY range when it’s 400 feet up in the air (62 miles+). Add a tiny $40 ATT iPhone CE in hotspot mode or Garmin Inreach explorer sat phone w sms gateway with Mesh Developer Toolkit, and you have an entire cellular on wings COW cellular tower gateway digipeter in a box with even a DJI mavic pro. 26 minutes of air time. Tethered drone can stay up indefinitely with hotspot and gotenna. This is VERY useful in the days IMMEDIATELY following a catastrophe, disaster, or emergency in off-grid, locations.
- +Ham radios and even BaoFengs are incredibly hard to use even for moderately experienced users. Have you ever tried getting them out of Chinese mode in the sun? shxt screens and shxt keyboards and shxt UI UX userinterference on Baofeng ham… vs Gotenna app UI UX high contrast big button / fat finger GUI interface with free offline topo maps and gps on Gotenna Mesh using your own primary device screen ( BRIGHT outdoor superOLED Note 9 screen or Sonim XP8). Have you tried saving a frequency to memory? Any idiot could depress or pocket-dial on an emergency channel, blocking essential resources.
- +Mesh Developer Toolkit FREE opensource enables beacon, status updates, backhaul, auto replies, … scripting, IFTTT, tasker, automate-it SDK integration — your imagination is the only limitation. Gotenna was offering thousands of dollars cash prize and free first class trip and stay in NYC to winner of their SDK app competition. Anyone can enter, even without purchase.
- +Free blueteam friendly tracking with GliderLink built on Gotenna App, but more advanced CTAK / ATAK / APRS type functionalities are available for professional users.
- +Block/Mute malicious / spam / compromised nodes… resiliency against electronic countermeasures, spammers, and compromised nodes… full smartphone notification granularity by times, location, contact, quiet hours… vibrate/audible… totally customizable.
- +impossible for new users to accidentally block or jam an emergency channel (SDK limits to 5 tx per minute, tiny tiny messages, FHSS, w CSMACD collision avoidance type polite listening)
- +GPS /aGPS /triangulation capability for SAR, blueteam coordination even when user is unconscious or busy dealing with emergency.
- +Automated Emergency SOS Beacon with preprogrammed message mode (device itself works even after phone dies or is lost). Any survivor can call for help simply, even if they lose consciousness by five taps on the gotenna button.
- +Bouncy castle open source encryption* (may be implemented poorly, beware) but the beauty is that you can roll your own homerolled or ANY encryption you like ON TOP of Gotenna’s — and some disaster use-cases (Shout, Emergency Shout, SOS, psa) don’t necessarily even require encryption. This seems to be the only free open source FOSS type encryption that doesn’t require federal foreign export license for. ?Bouncy Castle?
- +Public, 1 to 1, and selective group messaging. send messages to talkgroups, individuals, everything. Simple.
- +Read Receipt. Ping. Location requests. Automated responses. Automated tracking.
- Gotenna has taken a laissez faire approach to their .apk install file being allowed on third party servers (check google) so an admin could download the .apk for sharing with the wolfpack once on site at camp or in field even with no comms (memorystick, usb, wifi hotspot, bluetooth, airdrop, sd card… etc. for sideload) Thankfully, they have also relaxed registration of their app so that it can generate a random GID to avoid sms verification, registration — so you DO NOT need internet or cell service to install and configure gotenna app. Provided you download it before losing internet (or get it from a friend offline).
Best practices for pre-deployment in off grid areas:
- Download the app and register before you go. 77+ megs isn’t easy over 3g.
- +Download offline topo maps for the area (another several Mb)
- +Plan 30 minutes to update firmware to latest version for Emergency SOS and doubled (6 hop) for each device. Have access to an iOS device in case firmware fails and bootloops.
- +If anyone within 6 hops of you has a signal (wifi, cell, or sat… anything) then ALL of you are able to send uni-directional messages to ANY phone number… even, perhaps text 911? Or your safety contact. 6 TIMES THE LIKELIHOOD OF GETTING A MESSAGE OUT (signal diversity approach by using any available carrier, any available signal).
- +Mesh Toolkit FREE lets you backhaul messages/binaries across the intra / internet
- +30 day free GotennaPlus membership does text /sms relay across ANY signal.
- +May want to keep Gotenna in the shade, maybe with breeze/ventilation, maybe in a ziplock, maybe superglue around edges for extra playa resistance.
- +Any small solar panel will keep this charged indefinitely (interpose a cellcharger if unattended relay atop mast). Use the shadow and point the solar southern at about 15% ish grade. You can ping the device if you know the GID to ensure it’s operational. Three button clicks should take you to relay mode to save power on LEDs and Bluetooth.
- !+SHOUT and EMERGENCY SHOUT and SOS are UNENCRYPTED, public, cleartext promiscuous broadcast. (See Smith v. Maryland SCOTUS) thar be dragons ahead. GPS, metadata, phone number may leak…as expected. Maybe no privacy interest in this data? No warrant, no subpoena, nothing required perhaps?
- +ONLY direct messages are encrypted… Init error may expose (See youtube DefCon 26 talk) if required, roll your own. Anything you trust. Pre and post encrypt. Use an airgapped and upgraded iPhone imho.
- !*Current vulnerabilities allow for impersonation and perhaps defeat of encryption! Beware of Social Engineering and always take anything you receive with a grain of salt. Seek out of band confirmation from trusted friends.
- +Safest NOT TO RELY ON ANY ONE FORM OF COMMS; USE MULTIPLE FORMS OF COMMUNICATIONS!
In my humble opinion, the more appropriate comparison would be between the Gotenna PRO 5 watt Military Spec Hardened MilSpec 68 PRO version with detachable antenna, tunable frequencies, on the one hand, and a Moto/Yaesu/BaoFeng ham radio on the other hand.
As stated on Officer.com:
“Simply put, the goTenna Pro is 40x less expensive, 12x smaller, 10x lighter, and 30x more energy efficient than any other comparable mesh networking tactical radio system. Plus, with its intuitive smartphone integration, operationalization is immediate — no special training is required, as it works just like any other messaging app on your smartphone.
Some of the key enhancements in goTenna Pro relative to the company’s existing consumer product line [Gotenna Mesh / Mesh-X ATAK] are:
- Professional-grade, high-performance mesh networking
- Upgraded 5-watt variable output power
- Software-defined tunable VHF/UHF radio (142–175MHz & 445–480MHz)
- Greatly upgraded radio sensitivity (-124dBm)
- SMA antenna connector for easy operation with any legacy antennas
- Military grade ruggedization (MILSPEC & IP68)
- Intrinsic safety for explosive environments
- Upgraded battery life exceeding 60 hours per charge
- Complementary enterprise fleet management portal”