Hardware Recommendations For New User (Sept. 2022_

Hello! I’m located in BC, Canada (so 915Mhz) and I’m just starting a deep dive into LORA, and the Meshtastic route seems to be the road I’m looking for. I’m specifically looking for LORA communications WITHOUT using the Internet or a cellular network of ANY kind, so Meshtastic will fit that bill right?

I’ve read through all the Hardware section of the Meshtastic website, and have read as many “recommendation” posts on this site as I can before posting here. So I’d be grateful to current users here to let me know what the current recommended device that most are using today? Are most of you still using the T-Beam with the ESP32 chip, and if so is it still recommended to get the SX1262 and M8N version? (these are radios are they??) I see several T-Beams that don’t seem to list the SX1262 or M8N in the description and they are about $20 less (about $58’ish CND) than the ones with the SX1262 and M8N (that are about $78’is CND)

And is still generally accepted that the T-Echo that uses the NRF52 chip is still not stable now, and that the RAK board which also seems to use the NRF52 chip is also not stable enough yet??

So I’d like to start with two of whatever the current devices are to get the understanding of how to program and use them between each device. And then I’d like to learn how to make a Gateway that I’d like to hardwire power to, and put up on a mast on my roof. From the The Things Network I think I’ll be the first person to have a Gateway in my area, but if I can get it installed and operational I know several others in my area that will jump on board.

I have the Meshtastic app on my Android phone now, but of course I need to know which LORA device to buy first, and follow the instructions on how to program it. So this first post is just to get hardware recommendations from current users now in September 2022. Thank you to any that have the time to answer and share your knowledge.

The RAK NRF52 is the best hardware to run on battery or solar at this point, the techo is much better than it was but still has some strange bugs. Meshtastic uses lora P2P so there is no interactions with gateways or LORAWAN. If you are on windows I would advise not getting ESP32 devices if you are not comfortable with the command line as they are much more tedious to flash than NRF52 devices.

Hi Garth. Thank you very much for your reply. So if I understand you correctly Meshtastic ONLY runs node to node and never uses a Gateway? If so, then perhaps I’ve ventured down the wrong path here. I live in a fairly remote area and not in a big city, so if there are no Gateways the Meshtastic will only work if there are other close-by nodes also just using Meshtastic in my area? Have I got this correct?

Meshtastic uses lora P2P which does not utalize lorawan gateways, it only communicates over lora with other meshtastic nodes. MQTT is available as a way to bridge networks over IP.

Oh boy! I think I need to do more research then. So my limited understanding of MQTT is that it bridges networks USING THE INTERNET correct? My main interest in LORA is primarily the ability for short text based messaging that COMPLETELY CIRCUMVENTS the Internet and any cellular network. Is Meshtastic the wrong platform for this?

Correct, MQTT uses the internet. If you want off grid long distance text messaging with lora than meshtastic is the right choice, if you want to integrate over lora with helium or use lorawan hardware (lora gateways / concentrators) specifically then meshtastic does not support that.

Well I definitely do NOT want to rely on the Internet for anything when using these devices. In fact I want them specifically for if the Internet goes down and is not available. So maybe this is the proper path? Does the LORA gateway rely on the Internet for message sending?

Like garth says, Mesbtastic does not use a gateway.
If you mean LoRa gateways in networks like TTN or Helium then the answer is yes, they need internet.

Thank you Costo. I pulled an all-nighter last night doing more research and I’m clear now on how it works vs LoraWAN. Turns out Meshtastic IS what I’m looking for. I’ve decided on which devices to get now as well based on the information provided here and the answers I’ve got. Clearly if you’re going to dive into Meshtastic then the T-Beam with M8N (improved GPS) and SX1262 (improved transceiver) is the way to go. Only downside is the lowest cost per device available to Canada is $76.42. A little steep and well beyond that average $25-$30, but unless there is somewhere cheaper to source these devices from I guess that’s where we’re at now.

For hardware I’m using Lora 1, Lora V2.1_1.6.1 & RAK4630, I don’t have a requirement for GPS, mainly wanted an off grid communicator that is easily solar chargeable and portable. I have use a paired phone’s GPS for range testing, GPS works without a SIM card. The RAK I have setup in router mode at my house on a 4 meter portable tripod mast with a 8dB omni antenna. 3 other households mesh through this router with the furthest being 4.3 km away, in a low density urban environment, with no line of sight. For portable use or setting up temporary relays, I used the plastic case that came with the Lora units, paired with a 900mA LiPo battery. Lasts over 24 hours operation, the RAK longer. I also got 5dB, 8 inch omni antennas which increases the range over the 3dB antennas that come with the Loras.