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Thoughts on Meshtastic

๐ŸŒˆ Abstract

The article discusses the author's experience with the Meshtastic project, an open-source effort that leverages LoRa technology to create mesh networks for communication in remote or non-traditional network areas. It covers the author's kit, the technology and setup, applications and use cases, as well as the challenges faced with the platform.

๐Ÿ™‹ Q&A

[01] Introduction

1. What is the Meshtastic project?

  • The Meshtastic project is an open-source effort that leverages LoRa technology to create mesh networks for communication in remote or non-traditional network areas.
  • The author has been experimenting with LoRa as implemented by the Meshtastic project, which can be followed on GitHub.

2. What are the author's kit components?

  • The author's kit includes a couple of Heltec v3 radios and one LilyGo T-Beam.
  • The Heltec v3 radio can be purchased as a bare radio or in a kit called the "H1" that includes a 3D-printed case, an upgraded antenna, and a small battery.
  • The LilyGo T-Beam costs a bit more than the Heltec and comes with a GPS radio and an integrated battery slot.

[02] Technology and Setup

1. What is LoRa and how does it enable Meshtastic's functionality?

  • LoRa enables low-power, long-range communication, which is perfect for creating mesh networks in diverse environments.
  • Meshtastic leverages LoRa to facilitate communication in remote or non-traditional network areas.
  • In the US, LoRa uses unregulated 915 MHz spectrum, enabling a maximum output power of +30 dBm ERP. In Europe, it can operate over 433 MHz at +10 dBm ERP or over 868 MHz at +27 dBm ERP.

2. What is the "ham radio" mode and what are its pros and cons?

  • There is a "ham radio" mode for amateur radio operators in the US and Europe that allows for higher transmission power.
  • The downsides are that you can't use encryption (per regulations on amateur radio), and it disables the radio's default retransmission, meaning it will no longer relay packets to the rest of the mesh.
  • The upside is that you can technically increase the output power, but neither the Heltec nor LilyGo devices have the ability to go beyond 30 dBm, so it's completely pointless.
  • The author does not recommend using the ham radio mode unless you just want to broadcast your call-sign as a "nerd flex".

3. What are the steps for configuring the Meshtastic devices?

  • Initial setup requires firmware updates, setting the region (to comply with local regulations), and optionally setting a frequency slot.
  • Users may also want to set up their own encrypted channels.
  • The Meshtastic Flasher and Web Client can be used for these tasks, and there are also clients for Android and iOS.
  • The author has been using the Meshtastic iPhone app as the primary method to configure the radios.

[03] Applications and Use Cases

1. What are the main applications and use cases for Meshtastic?

  • Meshtastic was conceived to support telemetry and connectivity among IoT devices, like monitoring conditions in a greenhouse without the need for wired setups.
  • The community is also exploring Meshtastic's potential for emergency communication during power or cellular outages, a trend driven by preppers and survivalists.
  • With the radios configured, the primary interaction is via the Bluetooth-connected Android or iOS apps, where users can view connected nodes and send messages directly to a node or to a channel.
  • Channels can be public or private, with private channels using a 128-bit or 256-bit shared key for encryption.

2. What are the limitations of the "Long Fast" default channel?

  • The "Long Fast" channel uses a well-known and very short key, so it is technically encrypted but can be easily decrypted and read by anyone.
  • There is a lot of noise in this channel, and there is no ability to filter, mute or block anything.

[04] Challenges

1. What are the key challenges with the Meshtastic platform?

  • The platform's architecture struggles with real-time communication, especially across distances or through urban landscapes, highlighting the need for greater community participation and strategic placement of relay nodes.
  • The kits tried by the author have small batteries that do not last a full day, limiting their practicality.
  • The radios have limited storage and only keep the last few messages in memory, meaning that if the radio is not connected to a phone via Bluetooth, incoming messages will be missed.
  • There are many bugs encountered, such as the iOS app crashing when switching to the map tab, Bluetooth connection issues, and inconsistent behavior in the Python CLI.
  • The author found the community to be opaque and walled off, with limited support and bug reports closed without explanation.

[05] Conclusion

1. What is the author's overall assessment of the Meshtastic project?

  • The author is unable to find a compelling use case for the Meshtastic radios at the moment, despite their innovative use of LoRa technology.
  • The greatest value so far has been educational, as the author has enjoyed playing around with the technology and learning a lot.
  • However, for Meshtastic to become a reliable tool, continued development and expanded user adoption are essential to address the current challenges.

2. What are the pros and cons of the Meshtastic project? Pros:

  • Active development community with continuous updates
  • Inexpensive radio options
  • Low power usage, enabling battery and solar powered options


  • A muddled sense of purpose
  • A lot of bugs
  • Limited tech support
  • Limited battery life
Shared by Daniel Chen ยท
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