If goTenna can encrypt, why can’t hams?

I’ve written here before about encryption and whether or not amateur radio operators should be allowed to use encryption. I’d like to throw another log on the fire.

I just read an article in RadioWorld that describes the goTenna, a device that uses Bluetooth and the Multi-Use Radio Service (MURS) to allow users with smartphones to text one another even if there’s no WiFi or cellphone link. The goTenna device communicates with the smartphone via Bluetooth and then transmits in the MURS band (151 – 154 MHz).

The goTenna manufacturers claim a range of  a half mile to three and a half miles. That’s probably reasonable. In the city, you’ll get a half mile or so range, while out where it’s more open, you’ll get more range.

Among the “key features” are the following:

  • Automatic message retry & delivery confirmation
  • Individual & group messaging
  • ”Shout” broadcasts to anyone within range
  • End-to-end encryption (RSA-1024) & self-destructing messages

I have often thought that handhelds should include some kind of text-messaging feature. I suppose you can send text messages using D-STAR, but it seems like an awful expense to do that. It seems that adding this functionality to something like a BaoFeng would make it very appealing.

Also note that this device encrypts the messages. If goTenna can encrypt, why shouldn’t hams be allowed to do so? I’m really not convinced by the arguments put forth by those who are anti-encryption on my previous blog post. I think that someone—someone more knowledgeable about the topic than me—should petition the FCC to allow encryption in certain situations.