R U Serious? Text Messaging Is More Expensive Than Downloading Data from Space.

By Melissa Lafsky | May 12, 2008 4:44 pm

Text messagingMillions of cell phone users have adopted text messaging as a regular form of communication, to the point where the informal lexicon of “text speak” is infiltrating the school system. But all those “LOL”s and “C U l8er”s may be costing consumers a hefty price. Dr. Nigel Bannister, a space expert at the University of Leicester, compared the cost of sending a text message with the cost of obtaining a megabyte (MB) of data from the Hubble Space Telescope. Sure enough, the text messages were far more expensive.

Bannister explains his calculations as follows:

The maximum size for a text message is 160 characters, which takes 140 bytes because there are only 7 bits per character in the text messaging system, and we assume the average price for a text message is 5p. There are 1,048,576 bytes in a megabyte, so that’s 1 million/140 = 7490 text messages to transmit one megabyte.

At 5 pence (10 cents) per text, that comes to £374.49 (about $734) per MB of text messages sent—around 4.4 times higher than the cost of transmitting the Hubble data, which, according to NASA, costs £8.85 (about $17) per MB to send to the first point of contact on Earth. Which might give you pause next time you go to send “LYSO M8, JK” to 35 of your closest friends.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology Attacks!
  • Chad

    It has always been baffling to me why text messages are so expensive compared to voice in the US (and the UK, apparently). Clearly, a text message contains far less information than voice, as well as not needing to be the highest-priority bits on the network. Yet a text typically costs ten cents, while for most people most of the time, voice is free.

    This is the complete opposite of my experiences living in Japan, where text is virtually free (~1 cent, and probably covered by your plan, so the first zillion per month cost nothing), while voice is very expensive (20+ cents per minute at night, 30+ during the day). Guess what? Over there, people text all the time and only call when necessary. It definitely makes for more pleasant public places…and makes far more sense. Why US and UK phone companies charge such mystifying prices that defy any basis in the actual cost of the service is a bit beyond me.

  • Tim

    Texts over here cost as much as they do because of pure greed! When I signed up with Alltel in June 2006 it was 8 cents to send or receive a message, now it’s 15 cents for the same thing.

  • Peter Ridgers

    Why do the networks charge so much for texts – because they can!

    The solution is in the hands of the texters – you don’t like the charge don’t use the service! If enough people stop texting prices will fall.

  • http://www.facebook.com/MikeDonaghy Mike Donaghy

    Yup, unfortunately, this is not news.
    They charge this much simply because they can.


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