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goTenna, the personal antenna which takes over in network outages

New York-based start-up goTenna is making available a portable antenna which can take over communications networks in the event of mobile services outages, French IT news site Le Monde Informatique reports. the portable antenna is connected to a smartphone via a Bluetooth Low Energy (BTLE) connection. All users then have to do is open a dedicated application on Android or iOS to send SMS messages wirelessly. The addressee of the text must also have a goTenna to receive the messages, which is why the product is sold in pairs.

The device uses the 151MHz-154MHz radio frequency range. The communications range depends on the geographical location of the users. In a city, for example, whose urban density is very high, the range may be less than 1.5 km. However, in more open spaces it may extend as far as 80 km. The antenna, which is powered off a USB socket, stores the messages and retains them until the Bluetooth Low Energy connection with the addressee has been established.

goTenna how it works image

Encrypted conversations over up to 80 kilometres

Some companies use emergency communications systems, whether these are long range satellite telephones or walkie-talkies for speaking over shorter distances. goTenna could replace walkie-talkies with some advantages. For example, messages are encrypted and private: there is no need to have another communications terminal; and users can use their smartphone’s interface. goTenna can also send out a message to all the antenna’s users who have broadcasting switched on. “With a goTenna, the user is totally independent of conventional networks. This means that in several situations it can acts as an emergency solution for another emergency solution,” stated goTenna CEO Daniela Perdomo.

According to Daniela Perdomo, the antenna can act as as emergency communication tool, but not just for that: she thinks the system could be used very well for communications while enjoying the great outdoors, while travelling or in situations where it is important to maintain communications confidentiality. The antenne operates with a lithium-ion battery which can last two to three days in normal use – or about thirty hours if it is constantly switched on. goTenna’s CEO pointed out that it was the outages that occurred during hurricane 2012 which gave rise to the search for a way of getting smartphones to communicate directly with one another without using conventional mobile networks. goTenna will be available at the end of autumn, but it is possible to pre-order the product. goTenna costs US $150 per pair excluding taxes.