Next-generation comms for when there’s no signal. But does it work?
We know full well the limitations of mobile communication in the hills, specifically the hitand-miss nature of signal. With the goTenna Mesh – which comes as a pair of devices – your phone connects via Bluetooth to one unit, which communicates with the other via radio frequencies, which connects to a second phone via Bluetooth. This enables texts and GPX information to be relayed between phones even if you have no signal which, for managing groups or staying in touch with trekking buddies, could be a huge advantage. However, there are some drawbacks.
Although the goTenna Mesh is smaller, lighter, and has a greater range and a longer battery life than walkie-talkies, it only allows you to send messages – there is no ability to make voice calls. Nor is it immune from the drawbacks of radio communication: terrain can block signals, meaning that landscape objects such as mountains can interrupt the link and prevent communication, cutting the range down from an already modest three miles to a very limited one mile. It’s possible to use multiple Mesh devices to leap-frog the signal from one to the other, but this involves further financial outlay and requires careful positioning of the units to create a stable network. And, of course, it’s only any good for mobile-to-mobile communication – goTenna Mesh does not allow you to directly contact a landline or, most importantly, emergency services. It’s good to see communication technology advancing – but there’s still some way to go before it becomes must-have kit.
A potentially useful communication tool for groups, albeit one with some significant limitations for hill use.