goTenna Mesh community

Idaho mountains goTenna mesh experience

I’ve read several discussions on here about folks using goTenna’s in more urban settings but I haven’t seen anyone talk about more of a rural/mountainous network so I thought I would add my experience to maybe encourage others in similar situations.

I use the goTenna mesh (GTM) as a supplement to fill in the holes of VHF FM radio service to firefighters in the mountains of Idaho. We have expensive VHF FM radios in our vehicles and portable versions to carry into the field that are aided by mountain top repeaters. I currently maintain around 6 semi-permanent mountain top GTM relays (i’ll call them permanent relays). While these relays by no means cover all the holes left by our VHF radios they do make it possible for field users to quickly add additional GTM temporary relays and have communications where they otherwise wouldn’t. If you can see a relay you are on the network and everything in your view shed can be added to the network just by placing a relay where you stand.

Most of my permanent relays are in a solar setting and modified to return to service if they shut down. I’ve got a few topics on this forum discussing those modifications. Additionally I am able to ping and message them from anywhere on the network. This is a huge time saver in that I don’t need to travel all over to determine the health of the network. This morning I sent a message that had clear line of sight to a permanent relay 20 miles away on a peak of around 6500’. The message then traveled pretty much back over my head to another permanent relay 30 miles from the first on a peak of around 4000’. I have yet to max out the range in these rural settings free from interference of the modern infrastructure; if I can see it I have communications. If I can’t see it I try it sending a message until it fails; I am usually amazed at what 1 watt can do.

I have had major problems trying to place GTM’s on mountain tops already being used as communications sites. In these cases the GTM was very unreliable despite perfect line of sight. Additionally working around a city of 50,000 people I wasn’t getting near the performance I’ve experienced in my more typical rural/ mountainous setting, even with clear line of sight.

Most folks will not want to deal with the modification and upkeep necessary to keep the GTM network operational. With the reworking of the GTM to include a few of the changes suggested on this forum to make it more plug and play I think the GTM would make great sense to those in areas where there are NO traditional means of communications? In my mind the rural/mountainous setting is where goTenna could be marketing more. While I understand there are more potential users in large cities the usefulness of the goTenna mesh isn’t appreciated because phone networks are so reliable. It’s only when they go down for extended periods that the masses seek out alternatives.

Just my two cents. Hopefully this encourages someone!

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That’s a great report, roger, and should encourage others to try some mesh to solve their communications issue.

People in urban areas sometimes get discouraged about range, when they should keep trying. Brick and mortar and even wood framed construction are hard on signals, but a little elevation works wonders. That can be hard-won whatever the location, so it’s important to keep in mind that the next most useful way to improve reception is to move around some. This will often take whatever might be blocking you and get it out of the line of sight needed to communicate. This is usually an easier option than gaining elevation.

I have a few more thoughts, but gotta go for now.

What part of Idaho are you putting up relays? I grew up in the Coeur d’Alene area and still have family up there. was planning on putting up permanent Gotenna mesh relays at their various homes to improve coverage in that region.

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I am just east of Coeur d’ Alene. The Silver Valley if you know where that is. I had some good success linking the Coeur d’Alene area with my area by placing a relay on Canfield mountain.
Coeur d’Alene is the town I refer to above where I experienced less range from the GTM than I’m used to but I was still able to reliably hit relays on my home network around 25 miles away. I just couldn’t get more than around 5 miles from the Canfield relay. I may experiment with this again someday when time allows. With a little tweaking it’s probably feasible to have coverage across the entire state, albeit only 70 miles! I don’t post my relays on the map mostly because they aren’t always on in their solar settings.

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Very cool!

In the next month I will have setup permanent relays at the south end of twin lakes just to the north of Rathdrum and another one near the airport at the south end of Priest lake.

I might also be installing 2 more in the area if possible. One possibly at the CDA airport, & the other Possibly in Rathdrum.

You should definitely add yours to the map. Even if they are deployed seasonally. Just write in the description which months they are typically active. This way others can try to position their relays within line of sight of yours.

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