Cellular networks the world over are constantly improving, delivering higher speeds and better coverage, but for all the strides they’re making, it’s still all too easy to find yourself in an area with no coverage. Maybe you’re out hiking off the beaten path, or boating around offshore; once you’re out of range of the nearest cellular tower, your smartphone suddenly becomes a lot less useful. Or maybe the tower is just operating at capacity, or suffering other technical issues. A new accessory called GoTenna intends to help do something about all that, allowing users a backup communication system that can span long distances even where cellular signals aren’t available.
GoTenna pairs with an iOS or Android phone over Bluetooth, and then uses a radio in the low-frequency 150MHz band to communicate with other GoTennas – this is all peer-to-peer, with no central towers to worry about. In the right conditions, that signal can travel dozens of miles. With the GoTenna app on your phone, you can send messages to other users, either individually or as group. It also lets you share your GPS coordinates, and paired with its offline map, can help split-up groups find their way back together.
While that won’t give you full-fledged internet access out in the middle of nowhere, the messaging capabilities sound pretty useful for people who are camping, or maybe for aid workers in areas where cellular infrastructure is spotty at best. Right now GoTenna is still seeking FCC approval, but it’s accepting pre-orders for pairs of GoTennas for around $150. After that initial batch is gone, the full-priced version will sell for more like $300 a pair.