How to send texts with no cell service

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McSquishin
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How to send texts with no cell service

Post by McSquishin » Thu Jul 17, 2014 9:44 pm

I was browsing wired.com and stumbled across a pretty cool article about a new gadget called goTenna.

Image

The summary is that it's a device that pairs with your cellphone through a special app via bluetooth, and when you're in an area with no cell coverage the device allows you to send text messages to other goTenna users. It manages to do this by "piggybacking onto radio frequencies to transmit an analog version of the message to the receiving user."

The device is envisioned as an emergency communication tool for use in situations like a regional disaster when cell phone towers could be overwhelmed by demand. Purely speaking about my own situation, this gadget would be extremely handy when I hit the trails up at my local Mammoth Cave National Park. I have zero cell service there, but with a pair of these devices I could take one and leave the other with a friend at home. It would be like an insurance policy in case I get in trouble having the knowledge that even without cell coverage I'd be able to reach someone to send out S&R to come save me.

Two of these sets you back $150.
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gary in ohio
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Re: How to send texts with no cell service

Post by gary in ohio » Sat Jul 19, 2014 3:02 pm

More snake oil than anything else. They are claiming 50 mile range and that is utter hogwash...

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Re: How to send texts with no cell service

Post by WolfSpring » Sat Jul 19, 2014 4:29 pm

Interesting concept, small package, but it's still limited in range to LOS might as well have a radio for the price and range. You can get programs that do text on a mini laptop like hamscope and can use it on ANY radio transceiver, GMRS/FRS, CB, HAM, Spider Man walkie talkie. All yo need is speaker and mic and same frequency on the other side and same program settings, can send pictures too with SSTV program. Wish they'd come up with an app to do data/text they have one for pictures over radio already. If that came down in price to like 30 bucks(that's how much a cheap pair of FRS/GMRS radios is) I think I'd have a couple.

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Re: How to send texts with no cell service

Post by McSquishin » Sat Jul 19, 2014 5:08 pm

Yeah, range is an enormous issue with this thing, and I didn't realize it was so limited until after I made this topic. Cool concept though IMO.
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Re: How to send texts with no cell service

Post by Kilo147 » Thu Jul 24, 2014 6:00 pm

I just use Google Voice. My phone is long since dead, but I'm texting like I'm ten years younger.

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Re: How to send texts with no cell service

Post by nathat » Fri Jul 25, 2014 8:09 am

It would actually be cool if they added encryption functions to this device. You can set your own key inside the device and text back and forth over a secure channel. Would add usefulness to a marginal idea.

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Re: How to send texts with no cell service

Post by Mikeyboy » Fri Jul 25, 2014 9:25 am

I think it has a market, but more with something like an "disaster team" or "a wildlife service" where you have a group of people each carrying these devices and their cell phones and communicating amongst themselves and occasionally with the outside in an area without cell service. Running multiple units in different areas might give you a better shot of reaching a cell tower. Also I just find Smartphones to be a more useful tool than a GMRS radios. I'm assuming this GoTenna thing only sends word text only, but future gens might get to the point where you can send pictures, and have voice communication, then I think it would be real useful. If it becomes widely used and you have a disaster, basically with all the Government workers, insurance claims workers, and construction folks each carrying the a device, it would be a pretty big backup network.

The other market for this thing is a little more sinister. If this runs off of Bluetooth and is an analog radio network between users, can you basically circumvent using the cell tower network all together? No cell to cell transmission means no billable text messing, aka no record. I wonder is criminal elements would start using these thing.

However the lone person in the woods or in a disaster zone texting for help? This early in the game I don't think this GoTenna thing will help much.

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Re: How to send texts with no cell service

Post by teotwaki » Fri Jul 25, 2014 9:49 am

Bluetooth is not analog but a better solution may be WiFi Direct. Bluetooth tops out at around 24 Mbps, Wi-Fi Direct claims speeds of up to 250 Mbps. Only one of the Wi-Fi devices needs to be compliant with Wi-Fi Direct to establish a peer-to-peer connection. Range is claimed to be up to 200 meters but is probably half that. Bluetooth is typically 30 meters.
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Re: How to send texts with no cell service

Post by Kilo147 » Fri Jul 25, 2014 10:08 am

What about pagers?

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Re: How to send texts with no cell service

Post by teotwaki » Fri Jul 25, 2014 10:54 am

Kilo147 wrote:What about pagers?

Receive only pagers require a radio base station to transmit the messages to them. Two-way pagers require a transmitter-receiver base station to communicate with. Many times the base stations are on high mountain tops and require power and connections to a network to complete a path to the paging terminal that controls all pages.
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Re: How to send texts with no cell service

Post by Kilo147 » Fri Jul 25, 2014 11:17 am

teotwaki wrote:
Kilo147 wrote:What about pagers?

Receive only pagers require a radio base station to transmit the messages to them. Two-way pagers require a transmitter-receiver base station to communicate with. Many times the base stations are on high mountain tops and require power and connections to a network to complete a path to the paging terminal that controls all pages.
Still more reliable than a cell phone in the first days following a disaster. 9/11 showcased the durability of those networks.

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Re: How to send texts with no cell service

Post by teotwaki » Sat Jul 26, 2014 5:47 pm

McSquishin wrote: --------SNIP-------Purely speaking about my own situation, this gadget would be extremely handy when I hit the trails up at my local Mammoth Cave National Park. I have zero cell service there, but with a pair of these devices I could take one and leave the other with a friend at home. It would be like an insurance policy in case I get in trouble having the knowledge that even without cell coverage I'd be able to reach someone to send out S&R to come save me.

I carry a SPOT Messenger for the situation that you describe. http://www.findmespot.com/en/
My adventures and pictures are on my blog http://suntothenorth.blogspot.com

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Re: How to send texts with no cell service

Post by teotwaki » Sat Jul 26, 2014 5:49 pm

Kilo147 wrote:
teotwaki wrote:
Kilo147 wrote:What about pagers?

Receive only pagers require a radio base station to transmit the messages to them. Two-way pagers require a transmitter-receiver base station to communicate with. Many times the base stations are on high mountain tops and require power and connections to a network to complete a path to the paging terminal that controls all pages.
Still more reliable than a cell phone in the first days following a disaster. 9/11 showcased the durability of those networks.
Pagers won't really satisfy what the OP wants.

I'll preface the rest of this by saying I agree with you but "reliable" is not the best choice of words for summarizing the weaknesses and strengths of pagers. If you take out one pager transmitter tower then thousands of pagers go dead unless the operator has multiple synchronized transmitters for simulcast. All of the big pager companies employ simulcasting but it is not unheard of for multiple base stations to be taken out in large disasters. Pager signals have no encryption and are easily intercepted. If a pager is turned off, broken or if the signal is blocked the network has no idea. The message is sent with no acknowledgement so it is up to the originator to send pages over and over. Cell systems have 72 hours worth of retries built in for text messages.

There is a slightly biased and slightly inaccurate paper that still gives a good overview of pager advantages over cell phones here: http://www.americanmessaging.com/about/ ... ePaper.pdf
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Re: How to send texts with no cell service

Post by McSquishin » Sun Jul 27, 2014 3:16 pm

teotwaki wrote:
McSquishin wrote: --------SNIP-------Purely speaking about my own situation, this gadget would be extremely handy when I hit the trails up at my local Mammoth Cave National Park. I have zero cell service there, but with a pair of these devices I could take one and leave the other with a friend at home. It would be like an insurance policy in case I get in trouble having the knowledge that even without cell coverage I'd be able to reach someone to send out S&R to come save me.

I carry a SPOT Messenger for the situation that you describe. http://www.findmespot.com/en/
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Re: How to send texts with no cell service

Post by Kevin108 » Sun Jul 27, 2014 4:38 pm

Besides the silly antenna, look up Firechat. Again, range is an issue, but it's free.

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Re: How to send texts with no cell service

Post by zommoz10 » Mon Aug 18, 2014 12:49 pm

You could use DMR radios, which could also be encrypted... but I'm not sure if you were wanting to be able to use a smart phone

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Re: How to send texts with no cell service

Post by Blacksheep » Mon Aug 18, 2014 1:10 pm

hrm,

the following is hit or miss on topic, mostly thinking out loud


I have limited understanding of the finer points of how the cell system works..

but surely it must be possible to communicate cell to cell phone direct..
cell phones surely contain a transceiver,

why could they not then function simplex with each other?

now obviously they are probably not set up to do this... but it begs the question of why not?
it would be handy to be able to use ANY cell phone as a short range advanced walkie talkie
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Re: How to send texts with no cell service

Post by KGBrick » Mon Aug 18, 2014 1:13 pm

Rebel Pariah wrote:hrm,

the following is hit or miss on topic, mostly thinking out loud


I have limited understanding of the finer points of how the cell system works..

but surely it must be possible to communicate cell to cell phone direct..
cell phones surely contain a transceiver,

why could they not then function simplex with each other?

now obviously they are probably not set up to do this... but it begs the question of why not?
it would be handy to be able to use ANY cell phone as a short range advanced walkie talkie
Don't the carriers 'own' the frequencies that cell phones transmit and receive at? Unlicensed usage? I guess they could use wifi or bluetooth but then you could just yell. :crazy:

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Re: How to send texts with no cell service

Post by teotwaki » Tue Aug 19, 2014 10:42 am

Rebel Pariah wrote:hrm,

the following is hit or miss on topic, mostly thinking out loud

I have limited understanding of the finer points of how the cell system works.. but surely it must be possible to communicate cell to cell phone direct..
cell phones surely contain a transceiver, why could they not then function simplex with each other? Now obviously they are probably not set up to do this... but it begs the question of why not? It would be handy to be able to use ANY cell phone as a short range advanced walkie talkie
Most cellphones are built with just full duplex radio communications capabilities, nothing for simplex. They work on networks that were designed to switch calls similar to the old Ma Bell wireline telephone networks.

However, Sprint offers what they call "Direct Talk" as part of their push to talk network. Here is their blurb:

"Emergencies call for heroic capabilities like Direct Talk

When an emergency arises there is nothing more critical than communication. With Direct Talk, the all-digital off-network push-to-talk service that works anywhere, anytime between compatible phones1, you can ensure short-range contact. Direct Talk provides a reliable back-up communications tool when it matters most, whether you are facing a natural disaster or a simple network issue.
What you'll get:

Talk to other Direct Talk users when on or off the network. Our trademark “chirp” sounds if anyone is in your range and code/channel.
Choose from 10 channels and 15 codes to keep your entire team communicating in short-range situations.2
Direct Talk is available in the U.S. and U.S. territories and legally approved for use in Canada, Mexico, Peru, Brazil, Argentina, Columbia, Venezuela, and the Philippines.
Privacy is retained as your conversation can't be picked up by others - no worries of static or interference from other in-range phones.

1Range up to six miles. Terrain, weather, foliage, and man-made structures (such as buildings), among other things, may impact range availability. In-building usage may significantly reduce Direct Talk range. Direct Talk is not approved for use in all countries. Please check local laws before use.

2When using Direct Talk, all users must be switched to Direct Talk off-network mode and within range of each other, and will be unable to communicate with other users who are on the network."
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Re: How to send texts with no cell service

Post by Burncycle » Fri Aug 22, 2014 8:59 pm

IMO all smart phones should be designed with AM/FM/Weather built in, Direct Talk capability for short ranged communication between other cell phones when there is no signal, with optional GPS info (similar to Rhino GPS), and ad-hoc networking capability (with option to opt out) that allows texts to travel through intermediates of this ad hoc network to reach someone beyond direct talk range when there is no signal.

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Re: How to send texts with no cell service

Post by teotwaki » Sat Aug 23, 2014 12:40 am

Burncycle wrote:IMO all smart phones should be designed with AM/FM/Weather built in, Direct Talk capability for short ranged communication between other cell phones when there is no signal, with optional GPS info (similar to Rhino GPS), and ad-hoc networking capability (with option to opt out) that allows texts to travel through intermediates of this ad hoc network to reach someone beyond direct talk range when there is no signal.
We should also expect a cell phone bill that we can actually understand :mrgreen:
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Re: How to send texts with no cell service

Post by learntwoshoot » Sat Aug 23, 2014 1:15 pm

Interesting concept, but the range listed is by line of sight with no buildings, hills, trees, mountains, or other obsticals in the way. when these items exsist you can take the factory range and cut it basicly in half or less depending one the terrain.
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Re: How to send texts with no cell service

Post by Blacksheep » Sun Aug 24, 2014 4:49 am

learntwoshoot wrote:Interesting concept, but the range listed is by line of sight with no buildings, hills, trees, mountains, or other obsticals in the way. when these items exsist you can take the factory range and cut it basicly in half or less depending one the terrain.
Likely far less than half
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Re: How to send texts with no cell service

Post by kir » Thu Aug 28, 2014 7:06 pm

Just a heads up, there was a recent update to Firechat and now my friends and I are not able to get Firechat to work without Internet connectivity. We were also all forced to resign up. Even after resigning up and after putting our phones into Airplane mode and then only enabling Wireless... Firechat was still unwilling to function without Internet connectivity.

The two (non-amateur radio) projects we have been regularly successful at using for no-grid communications are:

Android only: http://www.servalproject.org/
"Simply put, Serval is a telecommunications system comprised of at least two mobile phones that are able to work outside of regular mobile phone tower range due thanks to the Serval App and Serval Mesh."

Computer only: http://project-byzantium.org/
"Byzantium is a live Linux distribution that delivers easy-to-use, secure, and robust mesh networking capabilities."

If any one comes across a cross platform project they want field tested let me know. I'm always on the look out for the next-best-thing.
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