Radio frequency

goTenna – Is this the beginning of NSA proof personal comms networks?


goTenna is a new class of internet-less comms device that doesn’t need the internet or the mobile phone network to communicate.

Launched in a pre-sales mode with two devices for $149 while they undergo FCC certification, it has managed to gain a massive media coverage in a few days.



gotenna 4

gotenna 4



There is an App which allows you to connect your mobile to your goTenna and talk to another or many goTenna users and features RSAS 1024 bit encryption and an option for your messages to self destruct (this is not your fathers Maxwell Smart self destructing device).

When you sign up you get the option to use your phone number or a randomly generated private user ID and here is where it gets interesting.

Maybe I have been watching too many US police shows but with a range of approximately 50 miles goTenna is a point to point encrypted comms solution which, if you ask me, looks like a great way to dodge NSA or police snooping by completely bypassing the existing networks (and their NSA collection points) and using encrypted RF to communicate directly.


Although their pitch is aimed at Festival and concert goers where the existing network is overwhelmed and at Campers, hikers, skiers, boarders and bikers who spend a lot of time in remote wilderness (with the possibility of injury), if I was a sceptic I would say that this device is crying out to be used by the drug dealers, inside traders and terrorists of the world.

Its attractiveness lies in the fact that its not easy to intercept a point to point connection that bypasses existing comms infrastructure, especially if the system has been built to avoid being tracked.

If you are going to tap someones phone, you need to gain access to the infrastructure that carries the signal, this is conveniently available via the carriers, just take a firehose feed off at the exchange or switch, but if you use a solution that bypasses the carriers and carry out point to point transmission then the snooper has to firstly identify where you physically are (they have to be in range) and secondly be able to detect which transmission in a public spectrum is yours and thirdly decrypt it. This is not trivial.

Not to say that this is impossible for NSA spooks but it makes it tough to pin down when potentially you are on the move, you have no connection to the existing network, all the things that make you trackable in a normal situation.

Given there is a broadcast to all within range option, potentially this could also be used to trigger alerts to non identified listeners, so the receiving end point doesn’t even have to join the conversation, just receives a message (albeit unencrypted).

This feature is very good for the sporting types, especially if they fall down in the wilderness and need help.

I like the idea of a device that allows US citizens to exercise their constitutional rights without fear of being spied on by their own Government however you have to think that merely buying one would put you on a watch list and that most of their potential customers probably don’t own a snowboard and have never been past their city limits.