Austin Mesh is a community group working to build a mesh network of solar-powered meshtastic radios in Austin. This network acts like a city-wide text messaging system. This allows people to send unencrypted group text messages to everyone on the network. Users can also send encrypted messages to any specific member. All of this happens without any external infrastructure - no power, no cell phone towers, no internet.
How does it work?
We have set up a number of solar-powered radio repeaters in Austin. These radios communicate at 900 MHZ using the LoRa protocol. The radios mesh using the open-source software meshtastic.
Can you explain it like I'm 5?
Pretend you're sitting in class and want to send a note to everyone in the class. You write your note on a piece of paper and copy it three times. The message can be up to 228 characters - about as long as this paragraph so far. You hand those three pieces of paper to the three people around you. Then those three people re-write the message three times and hand it to the three people around them and so on. Now imagine a big gust of wind comes and blows away some of the messages. If even just a few people saw the note and keep copying and re-sending it, eventually everyone will get a copy of the note. Austin Mesh works the same way but instead of paper notes we're using digital text messages and sending it with radios. Our radios are solar powered and they don’t need any internet or cell phone coverage. This means they will work even if the power is out.
Wait so it’s just like a big group text message chain?
Why build this network?
1) Community: Because this is essentially a city-wide group text message chain we are hoping people use the network to build community. Tell the group where your band is playing tonight, chat about local politics, ask for a good cheese dip recipe, etc.
2) Disasters: If the power goes out, like during the 2021 Winter Storm Uri, this network should allow people to continue to communicate with each other without electricity, cell phone coverage, or internet. This big city-wide group text chain could allow people to ask for help or offer assistance. People could get information about where warming centers are open or ask who in their neighborhood still has power.
3) Decentralized, Open, and Resilient: Austin Mesh is decentralized - there is no central server or corporation - all the communication bounces through the entire mesh. Austin Mesh is open to everyone - you don't have to ask permission to join and all of the software is open-source. Austin Mesh is resilient - our solar-powered radios don't need cell phone towers, internet access, or electricity. We hope this project will inspire others to build things that are decentralized, open, and resilient.
How can I join the network?
1) Get a Meshtastic Radio. You can build one yourself for about $35.
You can buy a pre-built non-solar node for about $50 on Etsy or eBay.
If you can afford it, we recommend you buy a pre-built solar-powered node for $125 on Etsy
and mount it as high off the ground as you can.
When paired with a large 10 dBi antenna like this $70 one, the repeater can potentially cover a very large area.
2) Download the Meshtastic App app on your iPhone or Android.
3) Pair your radio to your phone with bluetooth.
4) Open the Meshtastic app and say hi!
How can join the group?
You can email us to become an official member and attend our in-person meetings in Austin.
You can follow us on Twitter,
This site is (c) by Will Martin and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.