Meshtastic range test - dismal results ☹️ <50 meters

I kept hearing about LoRaWAN and seeing people post photos of their devices communicating from many kilometers apart. As an avid backpacker and outdoor person I thought I’d get a few devices and give it a try. I purchased three TTGO T-Beams with Meshtastic preinstalled. I updated the firmware and added batteries to each device. Testing at home works great, each radio can send messages to the other ones with no problem. I’m using an Android phone with the Meshtastic app as a client.

I put all 3 devices onto the Long/Slow channel and parked one of them pretty high up on a tree branch and took another radio on a walk through the neighborhood. I live on top of a hill so I expected to get a decent range. Sadly the signal drops out after about 50 meters. Even 90 meters got no signal, it was only until I could actually see the other radio that I was able to transmit a message.

What am I missing here? At these levels it would be more practical to simply yell or blow a whistle. Does anyone actually use these in real-world conditions, like on camping trips in the mountains, etc? How are you all getting these heroic range results even with the stock antennas?

EDIT: I forgot to add these are the 915Mhz version, here’s the specs from the vendor:
LILYGO® TTGO Meshtastic T-Beam V1.1 ESP32 915Mhz WiFi Bluetooth ESP32 GPS NEO-6M SMA 18650 Battery Holder With OLED

EDIT #2: Before anyone asks, yes, I charged the batteries all night and all three radios are at 100% charge. The antennas are attached snugly to the units as well.

This typically could happen if you use an antenna with a reverse polarity (RP-SMA) on the t-beam. The antenna nor the connector have a center-pin, so there would be no inner connection from the device to the antenna.

This is what I have:

Not much on antenna specs other than:
1 X 433/915/923MHz Antenna

I checked and the antenna does have a center pin, as does the connector.

That combination should be fine.
Maybe the vendor accidentally supplied you with 433MHz antenna’s. But even then this would give you more than 50 meters of range.

Does the meshtastic command come with any diagnostic tools?

It looks like it is a 915Mhz, unless the sticker on it is wrong:

Can you post your settings from meshtastic --info

Lora like height and line of sight, so start with that.

Here you go. All 3 units are in the same room right now.

Connected to radio

Owner: Radio 1 (R1)
My info: { "myNodeNum": 2223540236, "hasGps": true, "numBands": 13, "firmwareVersion": "1.2.65.0adc5ce", "rebootCount": 27, "bitrate": 17.08847, "messageTimeoutMsec": 300000, "minAppVersion": 20200, "maxChannels": 8, "hasWifi": true, "airUtilTx": 2.6288333 }
Nodes in mesh:  {'num': 2223540236, 'user': {'id': '!8488880c', 'longName': 'Radio 1', 'shortName': 'R1', 'macaddr': '78:21:84:88:88:0c', 'hwModel': 'TBEAM'}, 'position': {'latitudeI': xxxxxxxxx, 'longitudeI': -xxxxxxxx, 'altitude': 292, 'batteryLevel': 35, 'time': 1660575201, 'latitude': xxxxxxxxxx, 'longitude': -xxxxxxxxx}, 'lastHeard': 1660575201}  {'num': 2223543828, 'user': {'id': '!84889614', 'longName': 'Radio 3', 'shortName': 'R3', 'macaddr': '78:21:84:88:96:14', 'hwModel': 'TBEAM'}, 'position': {'latitudeI': xxxxxxxxxxxx, 'longitudeI': -xxxxxxxxxx, 'time': 1660574379, 'latitude': xxxxxxxxx, 'longitude': -xxxxxxxxxx}, 'lastHeard': 1660574389, 'snr': 10.5}  {'num': 2223539312, 'user': {'id': '!84888470', 'longName': 'Radio 2', 'shortName': 'R2', 'macaddr': '78:21:84:88:84:70', 'hwModel': 'TBEAM'}, 'position': {'latitudeI': xxxxxxxxxxxx, 'longitudeI': xxxxxxxxxx, 'time': 1660574938, 'latitude': xxxxxxxxxxx, 'longitude': xxxxxxxxxx}, 'lastHeard': 1660574944, 'snr': 9.5}

Preferences: { "phoneTimeoutSecs": 900, "lsSecs": 300, "wifiPassword": "sekrit", "region": "US", "fixedPosition": true }

Channels:
  PRIMARY psk=default { "modemConfig": "Bw125Cr48Sf4096", "psk": "AQ==" }

Primary channel URL: https://www.meshtastic.org/d/#CgUYAyIBAQ

Hey green, made an account just to remind you to always strip your lon/lat info unless you’re cool with people linking you with your real name/address. :v:

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Thanks, i stripped the geo data from the post.

I just got in from some range testing.

T-Beam 1.1, 868MHz, standard antennas, FW 1.3.38.

I got 2.2km walking down the seafront (in a city, but relatively free of obstructions).

My base unit was on my dining room table, first floor apartment.

I’m pretty impressed with that.

  1. Buy new antennas. I can link a set if you want.
  2. What modem settings are you using? LongSlow?
  3. I can assist you on TeamViewer if you like, I have helped @DesertRat before too.
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@MeshMonkey I’m so jealous! Maybe I have bad antennas…

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Hi @kokroo - I’ve been using the Long/Slow channel for all my tests.

Maybe these are just cheapo antennas or defective somehow. Yes, if you have a link I’d like to check out an alternative.

Sorry about the bad experience, there’s clearly an issue somewhere, try with some new antennas, there’s a number of reputable options out there that people can link you to, if that’s not the issue, RMA your boards.

Thanks @sachaw. I will look into better antennas. Do you have a particular brand or model that works well?

I probably won’t be able to return these devices; the shipping cost would be prohibitive since I had them shipped direct from China. Hopefully better antennas solves the issue!

These have worked well for me in my tests. My friend is just over four miles away with some trees and one hill blocking line of sight, and we are able to exchange messages using these upgraded antennas.

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On the topic, any good mobile antennas?

Which Frequency-range: 868 MHz, 915MHz etc Where are you located? I have made good experience with DELOCK 89769 antenna for 868MHz

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I’m in the US, 915Mhz. going to try those antennae that @dmichaeli recommended. Imagine lilygo just ships the cheapest ones they can to keep volume costs down

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