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SMS 4x More Expensive Than Data From Hubble

CmdrTaco posted more than 6 years ago | from the and-much-less-space-porn dept.

Cellphones 410

paradoxSpirit writes "Physorg has a paper comparing the cost of text messaging versus the cost of getting data from Hubble Space Telescope. From the article: '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 5p each, that's £374.49 [$732.95] per MB — or about 4.4 times more expensive than the 'most pessimistic' estimate for Hubble Space Telescope transmission costs." "Hubble is by no means a cheap mission — but the mobile phone text costs were pretty astronomical!""

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Math is HARD (0, Offtopic)

LMacG (118321) | more than 6 years ago | (#23378328)

"160 characters, which takes 140 bytes because there are only 7 bits per character in the text messaging system,..."

WTF?

Also, they don't seem to account for any headers or other transmission overhead? Where'd these guys come from, the Verizon School of Mathematics?

Re:Math is HARD, idiocy comes natural (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23378344)

Okay, let's see your calculations.

Re:Math is HARD (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23378368)

No, it's nothttp://www.google.com/search?q=160*7%2F8

Re:Math is HARD (1)

PalmKiller (174161) | more than 6 years ago | (#23378502)

I think hes referring to the start/stop bits and other data framing overhead.

Re:Math is HARD (4, Informative)

Crazy Man on Fire (153457) | more than 6 years ago | (#23378506)

160 characters * (7 bits/character) * (1 byte/8 bits) = 140 bytes

Re:Math is HARD (1)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 6 years ago | (#23378740)

Parity? Stop bits? Any error correction? Compression?

That just counts the actual data usage and does not account for any overhead.

Re:Math is HARD (1)

calebt3 (1098475) | more than 6 years ago | (#23378990)

Compression?
1. Compression would mean less bits transmitted, therefore lower cost.

2. It's pretty hard to compress "lol" and "l8r".

Re:Math is HARD (5, Informative)

Hyppy (74366) | more than 6 years ago | (#23378534)

TFA is talking about the transfer of data, not how many little bits are actually involved in the transaction. Headers and transmission overhead are not data. If you downloaded a CD ISO, you would not say that you downloaded 946MB and include "overhead" in your figure. Did you include your name and the class number in the word count for your papers in college?

Re:Math is HARD (5, Funny)

LMacG (118321) | more than 6 years ago | (#23378634)

> Did you include your name and the class number in the word count for your papers in college?

Hell yes! Month day and year, too.

Re:Math is HARD (4, Funny)

punkass (70637) | more than 6 years ago | (#23378710)

"On this most glorious Twelfth Day of May, Year of Our Lord Two Thousand and Eight"

Re:Math is HARD (1)

Hyppy (74366) | more than 6 years ago | (#23378792)

"For The Class ENC2401, or English Composition Of The Level Twenty-Four Hundred One, Lectured By The Great And Renowned Professor Of Grammatical Fascism, Richard Dung"

Re:Math is HARD (1)

Eudial (590661) | more than 6 years ago | (#23379150)

"On this most glorious Twelfth Day of May, Year of Our Lord Two Thousand and Eight"
And that's as many as twenty hundreds and eight: one hundred, two hundred, three hundred, four hundred, five hundred, six hundred, seven hundred, eight hundred, nine hundred, ten hundred, eleven hundred, twelve hundred, thirteen hundred, fourteen hundred, fifteen hundred, sixteen hundred, seventeen hundred, eighteen hundred, nineteen hundred, twenty hundred and eight: That's one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, and eight years. In one hundred, there is as many as ten tens, one ten, two tens, three tens, four tens, five tens, six tens, seven tens, eight tens, nine tens, ten tens. Each ten contains ten ones: one one, two ones, three ones, four ones, five ones, six ones, seven ones, eight ones, nine ones, ten ones.

There is much to learn about writing essays in sesame street.

Re:Math is HARD (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23379036)

TFA is talking about the transfer of data, not how many little bits are actually involved in the transaction. Headers and transmission overhead are not data. If you downloaded a CD ISO, you would not say that you downloaded 946MB and include "overhead" in your figure.

Did you include your name and the class number in the word count for your papers in college?
Hell ..the data is still being stuffed through the pipe isn't it ? and pipe don't give a heck if its a Header or data . transmission cost is same . thats why we send CRC in transmission.

this is surely a verizon sponsored research

Re:Math is HARD (4, Interesting)

Art Popp (29075) | more than 6 years ago | (#23378562)

First off, they're kinda right for the wrong reasons.

The "delivered" portion of the short message service (SMS) message is 140 characters and they do combine the unused 8th bits to yield 160 7 bit ascii characters per message. I don't know how much of the hubble's overhead was included in the article's 8.85 GBP per megabyte.

While greed is always a factor with big corporations, many of the charges put in place have primary purpose of keeping capacity in check. While the marketing folk at big telecomm corporations love the word "unlimited" it creates nightmares for the engineering folk who find that their SS7 network completely congested. They investitage and find that while it was designed to carry 30 SMSs per day for the 30 million subscribers for which it was scaled is now at it's limit because of an open source project that breaks up TCP packets and transmits them over SMS and allows people to download pr0n to their restrictive countries over SMS.

My favorite carrier offers unlimited texting for $20 per month. The way his daughters send messages he's getting them at 1/4 cent apiece.

So, slightly cheaper than from the Hubble! Score!

Re:Math is HARD (4, Insightful)

Lennie (16154) | more than 6 years ago | (#23378610)

It doesn't matter, most textmessages are not 160 characters anyway.

Re:Math is HARD (2, Funny)

theeddie55 (982783) | more than 6 years ago | (#23378980)

It doesn't matter, most textmessages are not 160 characters anyway.

mine are... I like to get my moneys worth.

Re:Math is HARD (1)

Lumenary7204 (706407) | more than 6 years ago | (#23378706)

They're calculating the cost of the *human-readable* data that's actually being used by a person.

Jo Average doesn't care how much header, routing, or other packet overhead is transmitted along with his/her message. They only care about what they can actually type and read on screen...

If it costs US $0.05 (US 5 cents) per message, then he/she is still paying US $0.0003125 (US 0.03125 cents) per human-readable character, when using all 160 characters.

Interesting way to look at it (4, Interesting)

faloi (738831) | more than 6 years ago | (#23378332)

I've often believed (known?) that text messaging is just a last refuge of the cell phone companies to squeeze a little extra money out of their consumers. As it is, on my carrier, I get unlimited calling to people on the same carrier all day, every day. I get unlimited calling to anybody, regardless of carrier, on nights and weekends. I even pay to have unlimited data transfer. But if I send more than number of text messages a month, it adds up substantially.

Good thing they've got all those teenagers hooked on it.

Re:Interesting way to look at it (2, Informative)

The_Quinn (748261) | more than 6 years ago | (#23378436)

Sprint, for one, offers unlimited text, voice, data, etc. for less than $100 a month - so I don't see the "squeeze" you are referring to.

Re:Interesting way to look at it (0, Flamebait)

djones101 (1021277) | more than 6 years ago | (#23378574)

Comparably speaking, Sprint is also approximately 25% more expensive than other carriers for similar services with less the availability.

Re:Interesting way to look at it (1)

Buzz_Litebeer (539463) | more than 6 years ago | (#23378780)

Your willing to pay nearly 100 for your bill, and you are ignoring the extra fees which can add mandatory 10-20 dollars to your bill.

If you have the kind of phone that can really take advantage of the high data stuff, you are getting into 7 dollars a month insurance fee's.

etc... etc... etc...

When all you should really have to pay is for phone and data services which SHOULD cost around 50 dollars, but instead costs 70 dollars because of 20 dollars mandatory fees applied.

Re:Interesting way to look at it (-1, Offtopic)

Dog-Cow (21281) | more than 6 years ago | (#23379024)

Precisely. We lost more people landing on D-Day than we have in 5 years in Iraq. Vastly more.
Voters don't matter either, at least not in the US.

Re:Interesting way to look at it (1)

Colonel Korn (1258968) | more than 6 years ago | (#23378976)

They offer unlimited data & text and 500 minutes of voice with nights beginning at 7 PM for only $30/month.

Re:Interesting way to look at it (1)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 6 years ago | (#23378536)

In most countries where SMS is popular, it is popular only because it is substantially cheaper than calling. The U.S. is pretty unique in offering calling plans where you get a certain number of minutes of voice time.

Re:Interesting way to look at it (1)

Anspen (673098) | more than 6 years ago | (#23378934)

The U.S. is pretty unique in offering calling plans where you get a certain number of minutes of voice time.

You mean a certain amount of free minutes (say 120-300) per month? 'Cause that's the standard in most of Europe as well.

Re:Interesting way to look at it (4, Interesting)

Hatta (162192) | more than 6 years ago | (#23378546)

Right. This is no different than paying $4 for a hot dog at a ball park when you could get the same hot dog at home for $0.25. Yeah it's a ripoff, but you're a captive audience. If you don't like it, wait until you get home.

Re:Interesting way to look at it (3, Informative)

Hyppy (74366) | more than 6 years ago | (#23378864)

The profit margin on many independent vendors' food at sporting events is not as high as you think. You'd better believe that they have to pay through the nose to be able to hawk their concessions. Either way, it's not a 4-digit profit margin by ANY stretch of the imagination.

Re:Interesting way to look at it (1)

Presto Vivace (882157) | more than 6 years ago | (#23378550)

It is a good catch, it would never have occurred to me to compare Hubble with SMS.

Re:Interesting way to look at it (1)

lintux (125434) | more than 6 years ago | (#23379030)

It's an interesting idea though. Just like comparing the price of the average inkjet ink per liter to the price of gold. Guess who wins that one.. :-)

Re:Interesting way to look at it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23378776)

I don't know what plans you're on, but it costs me substantially less to send someone a text (assuming I'm only wanting to say one thing) than it would be to call them and tell them that. Not to mention the fact that text messages are much more convenient if the recipient can't answer their phone immediately, given that very few people have their message banks properly set up. Besides, this article doesn't take into account the inefficiency of the spoken voices in delivering a message (compared to sending the same message in text).

Mobile phones are stupidly expensive.. (5, Interesting)

LingNoi (1066278) | more than 6 years ago | (#23378334)

and they have these stupid contracts such as "You pay as 15 pounds a month and we'll give you x many text messages free!"

What a stupid offer.. I mean what's next. I pay Microsoft 250 pounds and they give me a free operating system? Who are the kidding here?

When in Thailand I had the best phone contract ever with DTAC, 8 pounds a month, free phone calls any time for as long as I wanted to 5 selected numbers including 500 hours internet usage.

To ask for such a price in the places such as England would get you laughed out the shop.

Re:Mobile phones are stupidly expensive.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23378894)

DTAC is fantastic. I've grown very jealous since coming back to the US.

Re:Mobile phones are stupidly expensive.. (4, Insightful)

jsebrech (525647) | more than 6 years ago | (#23379002)

these stupid contracts such as "You pay as 15 pounds a month and we'll give you x many text messages free!" What a stupid offer..

It's actually quite clever. By throwing in "freebies", they can take them away at any time. Just like they throw around temporary discounts "sign up for 12 months, and the first 6 months you only pay ..."

The more a company does this, the less likely I am to do business with them. It demonstrates an inherent lack of commitment to the existing customers (who usually don't get the freebies).

is this a dupe--or just inisghtful (4, Informative)

way2trivial (601132) | more than 6 years ago | (#23378342)

nilbog writes
"What's the actual cost of sending SMS messages? This article does the math and concludes that, for example, sending an amount of data that would cost $1 from your ISP would cost over $61 million if you were to send it over SMS. Why has the cost of bandwidth, infrastructure, and technology in general plummeted while the price of SMS messages have risen so egregiously? How can carriers continue to justify the high cost of their apparent super-premium data transmission?"

http://tech.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=08/01/29/0244208&from=rss [slashdot.org]

and the infrastructure cost doesn't matter? (1, Insightful)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 6 years ago | (#23378352)

because the whole idea that cell towers and the like just sprouted like weeds is appealing but they are costly.

Actually the comparison is bogus because its apple's and oranges. They have nothing in common other than that word "transmit"

How much did it cost to deploy and manage a network capable of servicing text messages?

How much did it cost to deploy the Hubble, let alone a system to manage it?

Both relied on much existing infrastructure but I have to wonder, whats the preoccupation with texting? I know people who can't take a second breath in between having to text others. Are we that boring we need to bombard everyone around us to prove we are alive?

Re:and the infrastructure cost doesn't matter? (5, Insightful)

EdIII (1114411) | more than 6 years ago | (#23379124)

because the whole idea that cell towers and the like just sprouted like weeds is appealing but they are costly.
That only sounds insightful. The cell towers in question provide the infrastructure for SMS/VOICE/DATA all at the same time. The cost of the tower is not actually relevant to your argument at all since it applies equally to all the products being provided.

Actually the comparison is bogus because its apple's and oranges. They have nothing in common other than that word "transmit"
Exactly the opposite in fact. Apples/Apples/Apples. Whether or not it is a SMS message, Voice call, or Data connection it is all just digital communications between the cellular handset and the towers. If you were to compare it to the Internet, the cell towers would be your connection and SMS/VOICE/DATA would just be different services communicating on the same foundation of TCP/IP. It's all just packets of data when you get down to it.

How much did it cost to deploy and manage a network capable of servicing text messages?
The best question you have asked so far. I don't know the answer either, but I do KNOW that we can compare that directly with the cost to deploy and manage a network capable of handling digital voice communications.

How much did it cost to deploy the Hubble, let alone a system to manage it?

That question was answered in the article itself by nobody less than NASA themselves. So the data he is using there is accurate.

You are trying to consider the actual costs of a SMS infrastructure. However, you really only need to consider how much more difficult it is to establish a two-way voice communication than send a SMS text message.

In order of difficulty, it starts with a voice conversation being the most difficult, a data session being the 2nd most difficult (I may be wrong here, data could be 1st for all I know), and lastly sending and acknowledging receipt of a SMS message. When you start to think about that ask yourself if a static 160 character SMS message really costs 20-25% of a minute of real time telephone conversation.

That is the real "dirty" truth. Sending a SMS text message only requires a very short transmission of data and a receipt being sent back from the handset. If you were to attempt to compare that "Apple" to the "Orange" that is a 60 second slice of a voice call, you would find that a 60 second voice call is really just about a thousand of those little SMS messages being sent back and forth between the tower and handset. I came up with that number by assuming that a voice call will require at least 2.5KB/s of data for a decent quality connection. Take 2500 bytes and divide that by 140 bytes (from the article) and you get approx. 18 SMS messages per second of voice, which is 1080 SMS messages per minute.

A SMS message is at most 1/1000th of the difficulty of sending and receiving voice data. There is no "separate" cell tower infrastructure that is more complex, and thus more costly, than the voice/data infrastructure. SMS was a tiny little added feature that turned into something else along the way, namely a astronomically high margin product.

I am not even really that mad at them. They found a price point that people were willing to pay for a product that cost them far far less to "produce". I just happened to be one of the people that knew how high their margin really was and decided to not pay them for it. Caveat Emptor.

Real Cost? (2, Insightful)

SOOPRcow (1279010) | more than 6 years ago | (#23378358)

Is that the real cost of sending a text msg or just the average rate charged per msg? One has got to think its cheaper for phone companies to send a text msg then it is to make a phone call, but I don't know.

Re:Real Cost? (2, Insightful)

morethanapapercert (749527) | more than 6 years ago | (#23379178)

I seem to recall reading somewhere recently that sending text messages via SMS costs North American mobile carriers essentially nothing. The reason being that apparently cell networks have a reserved amount of bandwidth exclusively for the use of control signals. If I recall correctly, the established standards and protocols require this control signal allowance but in current practice it is either totally unused or drastically underused. SMS messages are sent using that control signal bandwidth and protocol so it is being sent using space that wasn't being used anyway. Thus the net cost of handling a text message is zero. (There may be costs in passing along text messages to another carrier on another network, that would depend on what peering agreements are in place I think.)

ET (5, Funny)

Davemania (580154) | more than 6 years ago | (#23378364)

No Wonder ET wants to call home

Markup (4, Insightful)

esocid (946821) | more than 6 years ago | (#23378366)

Everyone knows cellular companies markup text services so high it's ridiculous. I think it's in the range of 4000x higher than data transfer rates. You pay 0.10 for 140bytes for texts, or about 0.15 for 1024bytes in any data transfer service.
This just makes it a stellar ripoff. When will it ever change?

Re:Markup (1)

PCPackrat (1251400) | more than 6 years ago | (#23379012)

Verizon forced IMs over the SMS network when they could have gone over the broadband. I thought that was an interesting way rip people off.

Double dipping (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23378376)

And don't forget that both the sender *and* the recipient pay for a text message for every one sent.

Sprint's charging $0.20 each for these now-a-day (unless you have another plan of some sort). It's just the latest ripoff in the mobile phone industry.

Re:Double dipping (5, Informative)

stevey (64018) | more than 6 years ago | (#23378664)

That's primarily an issue with American carriers.

In the UK, where I am, & Europe, we pay to send messages, and make phone calls, but to receive either is free.

Re:Double dipping (5, Interesting)

_xeno_ (155264) | more than 6 years ago | (#23379148)

I don't really care about being charged minutes to receive calls - it seems fair enough, I'm using air time. I can check the caller ID and refuse the call if I don't want to be charged. It hasn't been a big deal.

Getting dinged $0.20 per spam SMS? That's a bit more annoying. There's no way to refuse a text message (on Sprint, at least). And thanks to the email-to-SMS gateway, the spammer doesn't get charged a penny. (I'm noticing that a huge percentage of spam I receive on my regular account is, for some strange reason, under 160 characters.)

It's even more annoying because I have an unlimited data plan - I can send and receive unlimited email from my Gmail account. I can view satellite imagery on Google Maps, which I'm fairly sure involves more data transfer than an SMS. But receive one text message? Boom, $0.20 charge.

Re:Double dipping (1)

Andy Furnival (1288056) | more than 6 years ago | (#23379168)

Actually, what may people don't realise is that UK networks and those in Europe charge Termination fees. That is everytime you call your buddy on a different mobile operator, included in your call cost is a termination charge from the destination mobile operator to route your call to your buddies phone.

Mobile companies make roughly £3 billion per year on these stealth termination costs alone.

Andy

Re:Double dipping (5, Interesting)

psmears (629712) | more than 6 years ago | (#23378790)

And don't forget that both the sender *and* the recipient pay for a text message for every one sent.
Only in the US. In the UK (and the rest of Europe, AFAIK) the telcos don't charge you for receiving texts—and even the idea of them doing so is considered absurd.

Re:Double dipping (4, Funny)

Thaelon (250687) | more than 6 years ago | (#23379132)

And don't forget that both the sender *and* the recipient pay for a text message for every one sent.
Only in the US. In the UK (and the rest of Europe, AFAIK) the telcos don't charge you for receiving texts--and even the idea of them doing so is considered absurd.
Oh, believe me, we in the US consider it absurd too. But when every carrier available to you does it, it doesn't bleedin' matter what we think, does it?

Re:Double dipping (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 6 years ago | (#23379082)

How do US carriers get away with this? Charging to receive phone calls is a bit weird, but at least you have the option to look at the caller ID and reject the call. Paying to receive SMS seems perverse, since there is nothing to stop someone spamming you with a million messages. Or do your messages get held on a server, and you get a free text saying you've received a text and asking if you want to receive it?

Re:Double dipping (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23379092)

I'm incredulous. As the others said, as an Irish guy what you said is totally insane to me. I mean holy shit, paying for someone else's message? How can you allow yourselves to be ripped off like that, and for that matter how does that escape regulation?! How can a situation where someone can spam you and take your money away be allowed to arise? That's bloody crazy!

Other costs? (1)

catbertscousin (770186) | more than 6 years ago | (#23378386)

How much does it cost the carrier to transmit the data? Is texting ultimately more expensive than calling?

Re:Other costs? (4, Informative)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 6 years ago | (#23379022)

I'm not sure the exact costs that the carriers incure when people send a text message but I do remember this:

After the freeway collapse in Mineapollis last year, the cell companies told people to text rather than call in large emergencies because it uses significantly less resources.

SMS was initially free (4, Informative)

awjr (1248008) | more than 6 years ago | (#23378394)

If you look into the dim and distant past SMS was a free service that came with your phone 'package'. Then they realised they could actually make money from it.

Ironically the price of an SMS is dropping and it actually costs somebody who 'bulk' buys 10000 messages around about 1.5p .

My concern is that it is getting so cheap, that I've already started receiving spam SMS.

As an aside, some companies now provide a SIM card hosting service. So if you can get the right package from an Operator (e.g. unlimited SMS messages) there is nothing to stop you spamming the world.

Thankfully 'clicking' on any links is not so simple and most people realise clicking actually costs them money.

Did Hubble spot the costs? (1)

DSW-128 (959567) | more than 6 years ago | (#23378398)

Hubble is by no means a cheap mission â" but the mobile phone text costs were pretty astronomical!

Does that mean they used Hubble to find the costs?

5p per message isn't that bad (4, Informative)

El_Muerte_TDS (592157) | more than 6 years ago | (#23378400)

In the Netherlands 0.25 euro (16p or $0.38) per message is quite common. For that price I can call 1.67 minutes.

But that doesn't matter for me. I don't use text messages for the simple reason that I don't think it's worth the price.

Re:5p per message isn't that bad (2, Insightful)

nogginthenog (582552) | more than 6 years ago | (#23379074)

5p is far too low. The average in the UK is probably double that.

Re:5p per message isn't that bad (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 6 years ago | (#23379126)

SMS here in the UK is usually around the same cost as a minute of calling. If you've got a question, then it will cost you and the person you are asking the same amount as two minutes of voice, so why not just call, ask, and hang up?

[Sigh...] Not again... (2, Interesting)

superphreak (785821) | more than 6 years ago | (#23378406)

Has anyone looked into "Unlimited Texting" recently? With Cingular/AT&T: Unlimited text, photo, video, and instant messaging for everyone on a family plan: $30. Maximum number of people on a family plan: 5.

30/5 = $6 for unlimited texting.

Ok, that doesn't include the cost of the voice part of the plan that you obviously need to have.

I don't know the maximum size of a MMS, but it's under a MB, around 700k I think. That'll move data around pretty quick-like, too.

Next...

Unlimited... (0)

Mr EdgEy (983285) | more than 6 years ago | (#23378614)

As long as we like your data usage ?

Re:Unlimited... (1)

superphreak (785821) | more than 6 years ago | (#23378736)

My Phone holds 500 texts. I clear it out 2-3x a week. They haven't complained yet.
And not all of that texting is to people. I use Google Mobile [google.com] to get info, and I get scores from 4info.com.

Re:[Sigh...] Not again... (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 6 years ago | (#23378966)

There are two reasons why that's not a good solution:

  • You have to have 5 people on the plan. Not everybody can manage that!
  • Even $6 is way too fucking expensive for what you get! I mean, come on! We're talking about 160 bytes per message here. That's so much less data than a phone call, it should be negligable, and therefore free once you've paid for a reasonable phone plan (i.e., everything except pay-as-you-go, just to stop people from sending a million messages while making zero calls).

Supply and Demand (1)

facemcgiblets (1274822) | more than 6 years ago | (#23378416)

I saw this reported on a TV show a couple weeks ago amid much outcry... but just as with pretty much everything else, the price of an SMS is set acording to supply and demand. If enough people are willing to pay 5p per message, then that's what the carriers are going to charge!

old chatter (3, Interesting)

luvtheedragon (1175245) | more than 6 years ago | (#23378420)

This has been a pretty well know fact in the tech community. the mobile carriers have been overcharging everybody. almost 7 to 10 years back India had one of the most expensive mobile communication, but for the last 2 years it has been one of the cheapest areas, while this process of cost cutting was under way a rally was called for networks providing free SMSs always. The SMS text is sent in just the connectivity with the carrier tower connectivity signaling. No special protocol has to be envoked nor any special services to be provided. So the burden on the network is less than nominal.

Total Bullshit from the very beginning (4, Informative)

EdIII (1114411) | more than 6 years ago | (#23378422)

and we assume the average price for a text message is 5p
That is an assumption and most likely pretty conservative. There are plenty of SMS text messages sent/received by complete idiots that spend 99c per message. I am not attempting to troll here either. Those people are COMPLETE IDIOTS to spend that kind of money on a simple text message. I am always reminded of the saying, "A fool and his money are soon parted".

So when you factor in these novelty SMS messages, the ratio becomes much worse.

I have never seen any hard data on the actual costs of sending a SMS message across GSM/CDMA cell towers, but I expect that the profit margins on a SMS message make Monster look positively razor thin with it's own margins.

The reason why anyone with a brain (even a damaged/inebriated/mutated one) can see how ridiculous the price points on SMS is pretty simple.

Take a mid-range T-Mobile calling plan. Say the individual 1000 minutes for 49.99$. That is 4.9c per MINUTE of a telephone conversation.

Until quite recently, a SMS text message plan did not have unlimited messages. They do have this now for 14.99$ at T-Mobile. The plan right below that? 9.99$ a month for 1000 messages. Yep, that is 1c per text message. I had always remembered plans that were 250 messages for 4.99$ at various places, which is 1.9c per text message.

So does anyone really beleive that a SMS text message can cost 20-25% as much as a minute of a cellphone call?

I certainly didn't think so. Raise your hands if you think that is right. Anyone? Anyone at all?

SMS was ALWAYS their little cash machine. Most people never paid attention to it, or considered the real costs involved and I would bet 4-5 digit profit margins at a minimum for the past decade.

Re:Total Bullshit from the very beginning (1)

Freeside1 (1140901) | more than 6 years ago | (#23378774)

And another thing:
phone calls need to have very little to no delay, imagine having to wait a few seconds between each things you say to see if your friend has a reply.
but texts, the telcoms can really send those whenever it costs them the least

Re:Total Bullshit from the very beginning (1)

markov_chain (202465) | more than 6 years ago | (#23378824)

I send 5 messages a month at $0.50 a piece. The unlimited plan costs $30 per month. Who is the complete idiot again?

Monster or Monster? (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 6 years ago | (#23379060)

I expect that the profit margins on a SMS message make Monster look positively razor thin with it's own margins.
Monster the job search company, or Monster the cabling company?

unlimited plan? (1)

Luyseyal (3154) | more than 6 years ago | (#23378424)

So... get an unlimited plan? Oh wait, they charge you extra for the privilege of never using your voice minutes to cover the cost of the text messaging, which itself is entirely negligible. Negligible on the scale of non-spam email vs total Internet bandwidth negligible. This gouging is just so painful to observe.

For the record, I hate text messages except for those occasional times when they make sense (finding someone at a loud concert, e.g.). Paying an outrageous rate both inbound and outbound for 140 bytes is entirely ridiculous.

Yeargh! End of rant.

-l

Hmm (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23378462)

Actually, the standard rate for text messaging in the UK is 10p, not 5p

Re:Hmm (1)

GuldKalle (1065310) | more than 6 years ago | (#23379000)

Wow, that's a lot! In Denmark it's about 2p from most operators. I can't really see how that can be justified, the population density of UK is about 2 times that of DK, and gdp/capita is within 1% of each other.
Just goes to show that prices and cost has very little to do with each other in this market.

Re:Hmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23379166)

While 10p is the nominal charge most people on contracts will have inclusive texts (often several hundred) and even on pay as you go you can generally opt to bulk buy text credits which gets the price down.

This just in... (4, Insightful)

DanWS6 (1248650) | more than 6 years ago | (#23378490)

Ink for your printer is more expensive than gasoline for your car. Where's the justice?

Re:This just in... (2, Funny)

caluml (551744) | more than 6 years ago | (#23378656)

... $120... $130... $140... But not for long!

Re:This just in... (2, Interesting)

Hyppy (74366) | more than 6 years ago | (#23378912)

HP sells their inkjet ink for nearly 8,000 USD per gallon. Interestingly enough, many smaller companies who specialize in refill packs sell 5-gallon jugs of ink for around 350 USD. That's only 70 USD or so a gallon.

We're climbing there, but who is to say that the rising cost of oil won't proportionally increase the cost of ink?

Liquid Nitrogen cheaper than beer (1)

DFJA (680282) | more than 6 years ago | (#23378900)

And liquid Nitrogen is cheaper to buy than beer. I know what I'll be having with my next meal now...

Re:Liquid Nitrogen cheaper than beer (3, Insightful)

the brown guy (1235418) | more than 6 years ago | (#23379136)

And liquid Nitrogen is cheaper to buy than beer.
You're obviously drinking way too expensive beer, try a 40 of old english malt liquor, sure it tastes nasty, but it's better than liquid nitrogen. (Or solid/gaseous nitrogen for that matter.)

Apples to Telescopes? (1)

abolitiontheory (1138999) | more than 6 years ago | (#23378510)

This is apples to oranges: A not-for-profit scientific endeavor vs. a profit driven, squeeze-the-customer-for-all-their-worth service of the cellular phone industry. This is, of course, the point, but its not surprising in the least, kind of the like the cost of ink [grafphoto.com] .

So is this really newsworthy, unless new information is brought to light, like the actual cost of text messaging or the antequated data networks being used to transmit this information, which account for the exponentially high costs?

To reiterate, this is obvious when you think about it: there is no profit motive to sending data to and from the hubble space telescope. The rates he's giving are the price of text messages--market value--, not the cost of transmission.

Here's a question for a better comparison: how much would it cost to buy a photograph directly from the hubble telescope?

The opposite is true in Japan (5, Interesting)

Guanine (883175) | more than 6 years ago | (#23378538)

From what I've heard, the opposite is true in Japan: their voice plans are expensive compared to ours, whereas unlimited text messages are the norm. This makes more sense because voice is clearly the more bandwidth hungry form of communication.

I'm told that the driving factor behind this unlimited texting is that it is considered very rude to talk on your phone in public/the subway/etc. Hence texting as the dominant type of communication. Can anyone confirm/correct me on this?

Re:The opposite is true in Japan (2, Insightful)

taupter (139818) | more than 6 years ago | (#23378830)

... and typing those Kanji in a mobile phone keyboard must be a royal PITA btw. :)

when you assume... (1)

Freeside1 (1140901) | more than 6 years ago | (#23378556)

...and we assume the average price for a text message is 5p...
for the average consumer maybe... but you're a crackhead if you think it actually costs a telcom 5 p to deliver 140 bytes at their leisure.

I think my head just exploded (2, Insightful)

argmanah (616458) | more than 6 years ago | (#23378588)

You're comparing cost versus retail price of two things massively different in scale in terms (cost per MB) that is completely meaningless in the world of SMS. Could you possibly have made a more pointless comparison?

My computing time is 4x more valuable analyzing Seti@home data as opposed to loading this article up on /.

Japan text messaging (2, Informative)

Khisanth Magus (1090101) | more than 6 years ago | (#23378592)

Japanese cell phone plans are universally calculated by amount of data transmitted and not minutes/# of text messages. It is actually significantly more economical to text message someone on a Japanese cell phone network than it is to call them, as the calls eat up your data allotment very quickly. As a result you will very rarely see people talking on cell phones over there, instead they just text. Of course, as a result they can type of text messages at an astonishing rate.

Silly logic - SMS for data? (1)

caluml (551744) | more than 6 years ago | (#23378602)

"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 5p each, that's £374.49 per MB...
That is, if you try to use SMSes to send data. Which you wouldn't. You'd set up a GPRS/3G session, and do it that way. And at (say) £3/MB, it suddenly seems a little more normal.
Bit of a troll, here, methinks.
That isn't to say that they're still many many many times more expensive than the cost of an SMS to the operator. But that's market forces for you. People pay that much, therefore it's "worth" that much.

Yeah, but Hubble is only one station (2, Insightful)

tjstork (137384) | more than 6 years ago | (#23378660)

Is this really a valid comparison? I mean, yes, Hubble is up in space and talks to earth, and that's complicated. But, Hubble is only one target, talking to relatively small handful of earth based stations. On the other hand, a cell phone network consists of traffic management for millions of subscribers, and with thousands of ground based stations that must be maintained.

Re:Yeah, but Hubble is only one station (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23378932)

Is this really a valid comparison? I mean, yes, Hubble is up in space and talks to earth, and that's complicated. But, Hubble is only one target, talking to relatively small handful of earth based stations. On the other hand, a cell phone network consists of traffic management for millions of subscribers, and with thousands of ground based stations that must be maintained.
Using the internet, I don't pay for each hop along the way to post this message. Your point doesn't make sense. SMS is overrated.

Re:Yeah, but Hubble is only one station (1)

Hyppy (74366) | more than 6 years ago | (#23378942)

Because if you compare it to standard internet data transfer, it just gets silly. Why make up 64 new mathematical operators to express Graham's number, when we could have easily just used the SMS profit margins?

I've disabled text messaging (1)

vijayiyer (728590) | more than 6 years ago | (#23378686)

I've disabled text messaging because of the terrible value it presents. I have way more voice minutes than I know what to do with for $60/mo. Why would I pay $0.20 for a tiny little text message? I can just make a phone call.

Re:I've disabled text messaging (1)

RoaldFalcon (1079467) | more than 6 years ago | (#23378906)

We disabled text messaging the first time we had pay money to receive a spam message. That was simply unacceptable. Everything about SMS pricing is stupid.

So is this the time to bring up ... (2, Funny)

SengirV (203400) | more than 6 years ago | (#23378692)

Printer ink versus a gallon of gas?

Re:So is this the time to bring up ... (4, Funny)

raynet (51803) | more than 6 years ago | (#23378868)

I think soon it might be cheaper to drive with non-branded printer ink.

Hubble just can't compete (1)

MadFarmAnimalz (460972) | more than 6 years ago | (#23378762)

It's just those boffins at Hubble grumbling. Think about it, do you really think you'll get smileys and flirty leetspeak messages via Hubble? No. And that is why Hubble is so effing cheap.

I don't pay anything for texts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23378826)

Although it's not quite the same thing. Here in Ireland at least, O2 gives you 250 free texts per month to use via their website - perfect for a geek like me stuck in a chair all day at work and at home. Because of this and my total lack of desire to call people, in six years I've spent less than 200 euros in total including the cost of the phone itself.
 
Are comparable services available in the USA?

Sensible pricing? (1)

warlorddagaz (1242518) | more than 6 years ago | (#23378840)

Would you have actually complained about 5p for a text message before this was shown? Pricing a text message at 5p makes sense, as it's small enough to seem negligible,and presumably enough that [your operator] can make a profit. Furthermore, Hubble is presumably downloading lots and lots of megabytes of data, whereas a text is 140 bytes a go. As we've seen with most forms of data storage/transmission, price and size do not scale linearly - just as a 200GB hard disk does not cost twice as much as a 100GB one, a 1.4 kilobyte email does not cost 10 times as much as 10 140 byte texts. It would be interesting to see how a mobile operator breaks down text pricing, and see how much goes on carrying the data

So what's your point? (1)

dtjohnson (102237) | more than 6 years ago | (#23378876)

Isn't text messaging at least 6x more valuable than Hubble data?

And the point is? (1)

wcrowe (94389) | more than 6 years ago | (#23378914)

I'm not sure what the point here is. It's sort of like those posters that used hang in Sherwin Williams stores informing us that paint is actually cheap when compared to the cost of an equal amount of nail polish.

SMS in India is way cheaper then! (1)

ScorpFromHell (837952) | more than 6 years ago | (#23378938)

It costs at max Re.1/- which is ~1.25p. Some networks its half the cost. However I am not counting the cost of the SMS that one sends to the plethora of reality shows. There the costs might go 4x to 6x. And if it is for downloading ringtones, it could go upto 15x!

My experience. (1)

RavenChild (854835) | more than 6 years ago | (#23378950)

I text almost consistently throughout the day sending a total of about 10000 SMS/MMS a month. The plan I have through AT&T allows for unlimited text for our entire family of 6 lines. So that means we pay $5.00/person. That makes my cost per text about $0.0005 a message per person. I get all of my email sent to my phone as a MMS as well and some of those can be around 100KB as well.

So in my case, I believe it's rather handy and cost effective means of data transfer since data packages are so damn expensive.

Gateways make it expensive, not carriers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23378986)

P2P (person to person) messages sent in-network (att customer to att customer, etc) are very inexpensive for the network operator. The SMS system is a facility built in to the Mobile Application Part (MAP) of the Switching System 7 (SS7) used by most US, Euro and Asian nations. Operators just get SMS basically for free as part of any standard implementation of the SS7 protocol.

However, as soon as the user sends a message to a mobile subscriber out of their network, they have to go through a gateway. The gateway operators are the ones making all the money. Since each gateway only has relationships with a limited number of carriers, the gateways have to have relationships with each other (and pay accordingly). There are very few inter. op. gateways in the world, so they've been able to charge an arm and a leg and the operators are over a barrel.

There are some competitors in this space, and the price is going down as carriers try to lower costs. As the gateways become more numerous, they will make less money. Don't worry, the carriers won't pass that cost savings on to the customer. They think it's their turn to get rich.

here in canada...... (0)

the brown guy (1235418) | more than 6 years ago | (#23379032)

I pay $3 a month here in Canada for 100 text messages a month, additional text messages are $0.15. I have a 140 character limit, which is more than enough for the typical "cant talk sup" message. Furthermore, at least here you can send text messages from the internet to cellphones for free, but if the recipient as a prepaid phone they get charged $0.15 per message received.
I'm not sure how the message leaves the tubes and reaches the cellphone, but I think it has something to do with wifi.

That's Quite a Stretch... (1)

FurtiveGlancer (1274746) | more than 6 years ago | (#23379048)

to make the Hubble look relatively inexpensive. Space research is expensive and no "apples to asteroids (~TM)" comparisons will change that. Compare the annual cost of supporting Hubble to the annual expenditures on dog food in the US and it will look like a tremendous bargain.

Space exploration will never garner adequate support because it's cheaper than the sum of all SMS plans. It will gain support by demonstrating its value: both scientific and in public relations. IMHO, Hubble.org [hubblesite.org] has done more to advance the cause of space than any asinine comparison, such as this.

As much as I hate rapacious capitalists (1)

slashdot_commentator (444053) | more than 6 years ago | (#23379080)

You should go over your itemized phone bill sometime. It turns out the cell phone company is compelled to collect USD $6-7 from each customer in the form of federal, state, and local taxes. That ends up being 20% of my phone bill. The gov't is taxing our right to "free" speech (beyond vocal distance). Who's going to protect the consumers from the gov't?
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