back to article Speak your brains on SIGNAL-FREE mobile comms

Our previous article about goTenna, a new device which allows mobile phones to communicate without signal, stirred up a lot of interest from readers and fellow journalists. goTenna CEO Daniela Perdomo and her brother, CTO Jorge Perdomo, held a live chat on El Reg this Friday, 1 August, at 3pm BST. Daniela Perdomo has worked …

  1. CAPS LOCK Silver badge

    I don't know much about this tech, but i do like their...

    .. pants, deluxe.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: pants

      Agreed. It does make you want to get in these.

  2. Steve Todd Silver badge

    They don't seem to have addressed the point

    That the frequency used is only license free in the US, if you try to use it over in Europe you are likely to have the police and/or regulators visiting.

    1. Knoydart
      Stop

      Re: They don't seem to have addressed the point

      Not just in Europe. Out here in the Pacific we have already have MURS based devices coming in from the US and attempting to explain the use of devices in this band to one track minded members of the public is difficult to say the least.

      Going to sound grumpy but Daniela and Jorge, you really need to consider the compliance implications and markets you are aiming for. What are your plans for supplying outside of the US? Because your backers will want sales and growth, and people on the interweb will want the next BIG thing.

  3. Bloakey1

    Been There Done That.

    Hmmm, did this kind of stuff on a Clansman PRC 319 way back in the eighties the only difference was that we threw in some burst and a bit of frequency hopping (Jaguar, Scimitar etc.). Also did packet radio and slowscan over VHF. Interesting that it should be using a US public frequency block, I am sure that OFCOM would pop round for a wee chat if you started using it.

    How about taking a leaf from the military and using Ad Hoc MESH networks over wireless? Easily done and tested by civvies in Taiwan, Thailand etc. On a similar note, the British Army Selex H4855 works on 2.4, is spread spectrum so one gets a modicum of secure comms and designed to be low power to further avoid detection.

    Soo summing up:

    Been done before.

    Been done on legal frequencies.

    Is lacking voice and video but could easily encompass it.

    Probably reports to the CIA, NSA, Ronald McDonald and Taco Queen.

    So to quote the nice engineer I spoke to this morning "I am not wanting this mr *******".

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Been There Done That.

      "Is lacking voice and video but could easily encompass it."

      US MURS rules specifically prohibit use for phone calls.

      The whole steaming pile of global frequency allocations is becoming more and more a house of cards, with devices freely roaming into different regulatory domains. I'd suggest better international cooperation but with all the vested interests, established uses and political agendas involved it would be easier to herd cats.

  4. mathew42
    Pint

    Serval Project is much more interesting

    I think that the Serval Project is much more interesting and a better approach, because it doesn't need separate hardware.

    This is the description from wikipedia: The project aims to provide infrastructure for direct connections between cellular phones through their Wi-Fi interfaces, without the need of a mobile phone operator. The project allows for live voice calls whenever the mesh is able to find a route between the participants. Text messages and other data can be communicated using a store and forward system called Rhizome, allowing communication over unlimited distances and without a stable live mesh connection between all participants.

    1. Bloakey1

      Re: Serval Project is much more interesting

      "I think that the Serval Project is much more interesting and a better approach, because it doesn't need separate hardware."

      <snip>

      Serval is good but it is not as user friendly as Fire Chat. The one limitation with mesh networking is having enough nodes in range. Yes storage and forward at later date is good but not ideal out in the wilds. Firechat is currently a massive hit in Iraq at the moment and lots of people are going off grid which is annoying ISIS no end.

      Given the limited range of Wireless frequencies distance is an issue but on a plus side wireless frequencies are legal for public use everywhere (1).

      1. With slight variations in some countries but nothing affecting fundamental principals.

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
        Holmes

        Re: Serval Project is much more interesting

        > lots of people are going off grid which is annoying ISIS no end.

        Aren't frequencies forbidden by Allah? If so, how can ISIS be annoyed?

    2. JLV

      Re: Serval Project is much more interesting

      >Wi-Fi interfaces

      can you remind us again about wifi ranges? good if your nodes are close, less so if they are remote. i.e. better in cities, less so outdoor.

  5. JetSetJim Silver badge

    Intriguing to see what they think their IPR is as delay tolerant networking (and this seems like a simpler point-to-point version of this, rather than allowing each node to act as a router) has been around for quite a while. In my mind I picture their product as a "tethered walkie-talkie" with a low bandwidth packet channel available to an app on the phone. No biggy.

    But who knows, while I'm unwilling to say what they're doing is "new", neither was Apple with the original iPhone, but they managed to release a product at the right time. So they might be lucky.

  6. Andrew Torrance

    Not a new Idea

    Its a good idea , but not new . I can only think that vested interests have not added the ability for a rf data channel to enable peer to peer data communications ? From a consumer point of view I would jump at it . Seems ripe for the commercial pickin' ? If we had that then I guess the box that these chaps have becomes redundant ?

  7. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

    Not sure what is the USP on this

    Putting myself in the shoes of a potential customer I am unclear what would the product give me:

    - it is an externally attached piece of equipment (so has to be lugged about at all times, because you don't know just when a hurricane/meteor/nuclear strike might happen and if you don't have it around it's like the length of runway behind or the altitude above your aeroplane - pretty useless)

    - it will only work if the person you expect to communicate with in the case of a disaster would also have the same equipment with him/her at all times.

    IMHO if you have to meet these two conditions you will be better off just buying a pair of walky-talkies, giving one to your girlfriend and agree you both will always carry them with you.

    And then I don't think that even if you post images of President Putin with horns and a forked tail on every billboard you will be able to scare enough people into adopting the product in numbers sufficient to make it commercially sustainable.

    It's either that or maybe I just misunderstood the way this product is supposed to work.

  8. 080

    Stoppers

    goTenna relies on everybody you want to communicate with having one of these boxes and also having the batteries charged up, the power is off remember.

    Simple text messages are quite limiting if you can only send them to people with a goTenna box. X25 Packet radio could pass on the messages from node to node until they, eventually, got to their destination. Will the goTenna link to other nodes and automatically forward messages? Can messages be passed into the normal text messaging system when they get to somewhere with internet access? How will people unaffected by the power outage know that they need to turn on their Box or are they always on? Since text messaging is virtually free, at least in the UK, why would anyone pay $300 (two boxes) such limited communication? Who is going to carry yet another box around for mobile use?

    What frequencies would they use in the rest of the world?

  9. Mage Silver badge

    Nothing to see

    Poor version of existing tech on a USA only channel.

  10. JLV
    Thumb Up

    wondering about all the negatives

    Has this been done before? Apparently, yes. Is this better than sms, no? Radio-freqs - apparently contentious outside of the US.

    But, if you take this as a mesh-capable text-only system, I think it does have potential.

    - piggy backing on your cellphone allows their system to be stripped down to just the radio bits and allows you to carry your cell and one small device and integrate its use with your cell (the offline map example being one significant bit).

    - I mostly use texts anyway myself, so this is 75% of what I would want.

    - In the appropriate locations (and I am not sure line of sight would be that favorable in a cellular-down New York scenario), this could come in plenty handy in certain circumstances. Camping/hiking comes to mind. Marine situations not so much because you would use a VHF set instead. Search and rescue? Dunno, again because of LOS, but tracking searched locations automatically might speed things up quite a bit over voice comms.

    - I assume later-generation multiband emitters could sidestep the US-only bandwidth bit. Later generation kit might be a whole lot cheaper too. Cheap enough might be quite different from purpose-built comm systems just like 10x speed improvements are a qualitative difference in IT systems.

    To me, they are not all the way there, by no means. This is still an interesting spin on enabling mast-less comms on cellphones. Done right it has the potential to be integrated in ways voice-only tech like walkie-talkies and UHF doesn't. Even if it fails, it might very well point the way to other systems. Or just serve as an example of what not to try.

    Seriously, with the number of dubious startups doing the same things as each other, in order to be the next social network or NoSQL wannabe, I rather applaud them for looking at fresher territory.

  11. Morten Bjoernsvik

    Great for governmental emergency networks

    I do not think the average Joe is the target for this product.

    It would be the governemental emergency network which most countries have. It is horrendously expensive to build, maintain, need special frequencies and special devices. With goTenna you can use your phone and just need an antenna to connect. Withing your entity (aka country) You can easily change the frequency into something reserved and legal.

    http://www.norwaypost.no/index.php/news/latest-news/29431-norways-emergency-network-has-not-improved-since-july-22

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Livechat + 7 days. What did we learn?

    The livechat was a week ago; I had to be elsewhere at the time.

    Is it written up (or replayable) anywhere?

  13. Roj Blake
    Coat

    EE

    EE seem to have been experimenting with signal free mobiles lately...

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