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Facebook May Bust Up the SMS Profit Cartel

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the bytes-and-cents dept.

Facebook 262

AndyAndyAndyAndy writes "Fortune had an interesting article recently about wireless providers and their exorbitant profit margins for SMS handling, especially when looking at modern data plans. 'Under the cell phone industry's peculiar pricing system, downloading data to your smartphone is amazingly cheap — unless the data in question happens to be a text message. In that case the price of a download jumps roughly 50,000-fold, from just a few pennies per megabyte of data to a whopping $1000 or so per megabyte.' A young little application called Beluga caught the attention of Facebook, which purchased the company a Thursday. The app aims to bring messaging under the umbrella of data plans, and features group messaging, picture and video messaging, and integration with other apps. The author argues that, if successful, Beluga (or whatever Facebook ends up calling it) could potentially be the Skype/Vonage or Netflix-type competitor to the old-school cellular carriers and their steep pricing plans."

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except (-1)

emkyooess (1551693) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411596)

Carriers already detect Internet traffic that isn't really an SMS and bills it as an SMS, such as various instant messengers.

Re:except (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35411632)

Or send an email...

Do you have any evidence to support that claim? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35411642)

Call me skeptical, but I've never heard of anything like that.

Re:Do you have any evidence to support that claim? (2)

fruity_pebbles (568822) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411702)

I'm skeptical too. None of the Google Talk messages on my phone have been billed as SMS.

Re:except (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35411666)

My cellphone bill says otherwise. Saved $30 a month by switching to google talk for international texting.

Re:except (2)

shadowfaxcrx (1736978) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411712)

Yep. Using Talk let me drop my txt plan. Not to say others aren't, but considering how much Verizon likes to nickel and dime customers, I'd be surprised if others were doing that and they weren't.

Re:except (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35411706)

Sorry, but that is not universally true. Even back to the days of the T-Mobile Dash Windows Mobile phone I had. It depends on how the developer creates the IM client. On the Dash if I used (if I remember correctly) AIM it used the data plan. However if I used ICQ or Y! it used SMS to send the "instant messages". Not because T-Mobile charged that way, but because the apps did indeed use SMS to send the "instant messages". Even today on Android, if you use GTalk to instant message, it uses your data plan. Same goes for lots of other IM clients. However if the IM client was created to use SMS then you better have an unlimited SMS plan!!!

Re:except (1)

asn (4418) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411724)

Examples? I've never had that happen....

No (2)

Tanman (90298) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411746)

You are confusing "internet companies provide IM clients which bill as SMS if you use them" with "companies monitor traffic to . . ."

if you get your new non-smartphone with its included AIM application and send messages with that, it will likely bill those as a SMS message. That is entirely a different thing.

At least that is my experience.

Re:except (1)

rainmouse (1784278) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411912)

WhatsApp for iPhone and Android allows you to send sms and picture messages for free via your web connection to anyone of your friends who also has the app. I believe there are others out there (does Google voice also do this?).

Re:except (1)

rsborg (111459) | more than 3 years ago | (#35412028)

Carriers already detect Internet traffic that isn't really an SMS and bills it as an SMS, such as various instant messengers.

cite?

Ummmm, no (1)

mr1911 (1942298) | more than 3 years ago | (#35412048)

Carriers already detect Internet traffic that isn't really an SMS and bills it as an SMS, such as various instant messengers.

I use Google Voice on my iPhone and pay no additional fee. Same with TextFree, which was my free text alternative while waiting for Google Voice to make it through Apple's approval process. You can text until your thumbs bleed with no SMS charge.

The only issue I have is that, while Google Voice and/or TextFree work fine most of the time, there is randomly a delay where the messages do not come through in a timely manner.

I hope Facebook is successful at this. Not because I have any intent to use Facebook messaging, but I would like to see the carriers forced to drop their text charges.

Re:except (1)

markass530 (870112) | more than 3 years ago | (#35412114)

Also sprint doesn't make a big deal out of texts, just lumps them in with data

Re:except (1)

Andy Dodd (701) | more than 3 years ago | (#35412128)

Wrong.

Carriers install instant messengers on their phones that use SMS as a transport and not IP. (This practice is getting less frequent as time goes by, but a LOT of mobile IM clients do this!). They do NOT detect "SMS-like" IP data and bill it as SMS.

Another reason why stock ROMs from carriers suck.

You're probably in fairly good shape with Android or iOS, as I don't think any IM apps exist for Android that use SMS as the transport instead of IP. However, feature phones, fakesmartphones (you know, those touchscreen phones NOT running one of the major platforms), and some of the older mobile platforms (WM5/WM6) are at risk for the "old and evil" IM apps.

Re:except (4, Informative)

trapnest (1608791) | more than 3 years ago | (#35412142)

That's not really the case, most of the dumbphone "IM" applications are really sending IMs over SMS.

Re:except (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#35412158)

Which carriers?
I use both google talk and google voice for sms-like messaging. Neither one have I ever been billed for sms usage when using.

Re:except (2)

MonsterTrimble (1205334) | more than 3 years ago | (#35412238)

I got caught on this when using the phone's built in messengers. Made a $40 phone bill $170. After swapping to the unlimited plan (cost an extra $5 but unlimited text and net) I switched to eBuddy which handles Yahoo, Facebook & more a la Pidgin/Kopete.

By the way, does anyone know if they are planning a new version of Kopete? it seems like all real development has ended on it which is a pity because I loved it until the lack of facebook support for months after Pidgin had it killed it for me.

Re:except (1)

justin12345 (846440) | more than 3 years ago | (#35412356)

Who does that (I'm curious, I'm not contradicting you)? I've never heard of anything like that. I know that AT&T doesn't do it, neither does Sprint. Other posters have a said Verizon and T-Mobil don't either. Is it a non-US practice?

Google Voice and TextFree (5, Informative)

Mean Variance (913229) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411606)

I've found the available workarounds are sufficient to the point that I could give a crap about texting fees. I use GoogleVoice and TextFree and they work great. My wife uses Virgin Mobile for $25/mo (that's it no extra taxes or garbage) and can text to her delight.

Re:Google Voice and TextFree (1)

publiclurker (952615) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411812)

I've toyed with using virgin's 25$ a month but I don't trust the wording on the contract. Just how "unlimited" are things like web browsing and the like. Now that they have non contract Android phones for under 150$, it almost sounds too good to be true, which means to me that it probably is.

Re:Google Voice and TextFree (1)

oracleguy01 (1381327) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411942)

The "unlimited" data plan is limited to 5GB a month. After you go past 5GB your throttled way down, AFAIK.

Re:Google Voice and TextFree (1)

markass530 (870112) | more than 3 years ago | (#35412124)

thats only for their Data only usb sticks & wifi

Re:Google Voice and TextFree (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35412216)

Never mind throtteling sms's. 110 baud would do just fine.

Re:Google Voice and TextFree (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35411972)

My sister uses the $25 VM plan, and it really is unlimited, tho after 5gb / month they heavily throttle it. Even so this is still much better than the 2gb hard cap AT&T gives people.

Re:Google Voice and TextFree (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35411988)

2.5 GB/month, after that, they throttle you hardcore. Just remember, you're also limited to the Sprint-only CDMA network, no roaming, so your coverage is going to blow chunks outside major metropolitan regions and highways with greater coverage on the East coast. Also, since you're on a secondary carrier, Sprint will drop frames on you like mad if they've oversold bandwidth in your area (the odds are NOT in your favor). On the other hand, you can get the Optimus V for $130 right now, jailbreak it and set up a WiFi hotspot at $25/month (until Virgin notices your usage stats and drop you like a stone for suspected tethering).

US cell phone voice, data, and SMS plans are among the worst and most backward in the world. Most of the people I know that visit here from Europe and elsewhere find it laughable.

Re:Google Voice and TextFree (1)

MoonBuggy (611105) | more than 3 years ago | (#35412074)

The terms of service [virginmobileusa.com] for those plans don't seem to make sense from a technical perspective:

Beyond Talk Plans: $25.00 per month for unlimited domestic text messages, picture messages, instant messages ("IM") and email messages, unlimited video, unlimited access to Downloads (VirginXL) and the mobile Internet (but not unlimited downloaded content), and 300 anytime minutes.

I know it's legalese, but I've always been told that the point of such arcane terminology is to accurately and unambiguously cover all eventualities (usually in the context of none of those eventualities being the company's fault, but I digress). How can one reconcile " unlimited access to ... the mobile Internet" with "but not unlimited downloaded content" - is the mobile internet somehow defined differently to the regular internet? Obviously if something ends up getting from a server to your phone it's been downloaded, but under their odd definition does something count if it's only stored in RAM? What if it's cached on the persistent memory but automatically deleted? What if it's not automatically deleted?

Re:Google Voice and TextFree (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35412182)

My wife also has the VM $25 plan, with the Intercept (Android slider). It has been fine, she can stream Pandora in the car etc. Not sure that she really uses all that much data overall, though.

Google Voice (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35411608)

Congrats, I've been getting/sending free text messages for two years?
-Google Voice User

Another retread (3, Insightful)

Imagix (695350) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411614)

I can already do this. It's called Google Talk (or pick almost any other IM system). Why is "Beluga" any more special than any other IM system?

Re:Another retread (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35411782)

With Beluga, the recipient doesn't have to have *anything* more than SMS capability. They will be charged SMS fees until they get it, but they're still capable of participating in group chat sessions without other individuals in the Beluga Pod.

I don't believe Google Talk or any other IM system can do that. I could be wrong...

Re:Another retread (4, Informative)

blueg3 (192743) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411836)

So it's Google Voice, but without the other features.

Re:Another retread (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35412036)

Standard SMS users can join Google Voice group chats? I don't have it and I can't verify, but definitely curious.

Re:Another retread (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#35412194)

Standard SMS users can reply to Google voice messages, but I have never used any group chat function of GV.

Re:Another retread (1)

amRadioHed (463061) | more than 3 years ago | (#35412300)

Yes, Google Voice gives you its own phone number to use and anyone can use that number to send you standard SMS messages.

Re:Another retread (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35411884)

From a technological standpoint, it's not special. From a market standpoint, Facebook could change everything because of the huge number of people who could finally adopt this technology. It could finally force carriers to change. Or not. Depends on whether Facebook makes a deal with carriers and how resistent people are to make the small behavioral change required to SMS in a new way.

I'm getting old (5, Insightful)

guruevi (827432) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411616)

I remember when SMS was free and was hidden in the advanced menu of a 3-line text display of a phone.

Re:I'm getting old (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411928)

Indeed, it's a great scam they have going. A bunch of idiots paying exorbitant prices for something which costs the carrier basically nothing to provide.

Re:I'm getting old (4, Interesting)

DeadCatX2 (950953) | more than 3 years ago | (#35412306)

"basically" nothing?

Every time your phone pings a cell phone tower, it transmits a packet of data to and from the tower. This packet of data has some spare space at the end. This bit of room is where the put the text message data.

Your phone is using the text message's bandwidth whether or not you're sending or receiving a text message.

Quite the racket they've got going, making you pay to make use of bandwidth that you're already consuming regardless of the use of text messages.

Google already did it (1)

Baloo Uriza (1582831) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411620)

I mean, isn't this exactly why Google Voice [google.com] exists?

Anything to stop the carriers.. (5, Insightful)

iONiUM (530420) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411624)

Well, I can't believe I'm going to say this considering I am definitely not a fan of Facebook, but if this is what it would take to make them drop the completely outrageous SMS price tag, then I'd support it.. And, that's knowing full-well that Facebook is just doing this to increase platform adoption, since if you want to 'text', you'd have to be on FB..

That said, I doubt I'd use it, just because I don't have a Facebook account. But I'm hoping it would lower the SMS fees for myself. Competition is good, right?

Re:Anything to stop the carriers.. (2)

pandrijeczko (588093) | more than 3 years ago | (#35412340)

There's one problem with you plan - babies.

Yes, go on Facebook and everyone from here to Timbuktu who has had a baby is taking photographs of their baby and putting it up on Facebook.

Oh, and talking about their babies.

Lots.

What about kik? (1)

FesterDaFelcher (651853) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411626)

Kik messenger [kik.com] is doing this right now, and surprisingly well. With the exception of being kik'ed (hah) off of Blackberry, although I could see BB doing the same thing to any other startup doing the same thing, Facebook backed or not...

Don't have facebook (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35411628)

So, do I need to use facebook?

I hope this actually puts some pressure .... (3, Insightful)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411630)

I think most of us have known for years that the amount we get charged for cell phone SMS and data plans is really out of whack.

How is something with a limit of 140 chars or so worth the 10 or 15 cents they charge you for it?

They've been advertising broadband and cell for the last decade as "look at all the shiny things you can do", but the price never goes down, and they keep lowering the cap on what you can use.

They've bet the farm selling telecom services, but they can't actually afford for you to use them the way they advertise them. Or, at least, we can't afford to use them the way they're advertised.

Re:I hope this actually puts some pressure .... (1)

jackbird (721605) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411696)

10 or 15? Sprint charges a quarter to send and receive, even within your family plan, so if my wife texts me, and i reply, it costs a buck.

Re:I hope this actually puts some pressure .... (1)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411754)

10 or 15? Sprint charges a quarter to send and receive, even within your family plan, so if my wife texts me, and i reply, it costs a buck.

Really? That is expensive, but I don't keep close tabs on the price to be honest.

I don't text, but my wife does a little ... we've looked at it, and for our phone carrier we just worked out that unless she's going to routinely text more than x messages, the cheapest texting plan isn't worth it since she'd pay less every month on average since she doesn't text that much. So, she pays for the 5-10 text messages she gets/send each month.

I basically view it as a scam that they overcharge for. I refuse to believe the incremental cost of an SMS is actually anything more than, well, zero actually.

Unfortunately, the carriers continue to charge stupid money for something that should have gotten cheaper over the years.

Re:I hope this actually puts some pressure .... (2)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411790)

Do they seriously charge you to receive an SMS? that's completely stupid, as your phone automatically receives it whether or not you want it to. Do they also charge you for calls that make your phone ring, but that you don't pick up? What of somebody on an unlimited texting plan sent you 1000 messages in a month? Would you automatically get billed $250 just because somebody decided to send you a bunch of messages, even though you didn't want to receive them?

Re:I hope this actually puts some pressure .... (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35411890)

Yes, you would get billed for those 1000 received messages. You'd have to call customer support, explain what happened, ask them to block all incoming texts to your device, and then- maybe- you might be able to negotiate a refund.
But they're not crooks, it's all perfectly legal... as long as you do it on a large enough scale.

Re:I hope this actually puts some pressure .... (2)

praxis (19962) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411908)

Now you are starting to understand why people aren't overly fond of the telecommunications companies Stateside.

Re:I hope this actually puts some pressure .... (1)

Nadaka (224565) | more than 3 years ago | (#35412042)

Most of them charge not to receive the text message, but to view it instead.

Re:I hope this actually puts some pressure .... (1)

bertok (226922) | more than 3 years ago | (#35412050)

Would you automatically get billed $250 just because somebody decided to send you a bunch of messages, even though you didn't want to receive them?

In a word? Yes.

In every country I've been in, telco and ISP companies are the only entities allowed to charge unlimited amounts of money for a service that you aren't even aware you are using. Here in Australia, there's been lots of horror stories of kids watching youtube videos, and then the next monthly bill on the "$25/mo" plan is $40,000! I've had this kind of thing happen to a friend, she had a bill arrive for 1 month that was bigger than her life savings.

There was a point here in Australia where Telstra had a cable plan where you could exceed your monthly quota in about 40 minutes, and subsequent to that, every hour would cost you about $5000. That's more than the most expensive prostitute, or the most expensive lawyer you can hire as an individual. In other words, they've found a way to make the Internet not the best source for porn, and cheaper to sue them than pay the bill!

What do politicians do about this? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. They're not even aware that there's a problem with companies being allowed to hold their customer to ransom, bankrupt them, and ruin their credit rating. Yet, we keep voting them into power, and they keep getting fat checks from corporations.

Move along citizen, move along...

Re:I hope this actually puts some pressure .... (1)

markass530 (870112) | more than 3 years ago | (#35412162)

what kind of insane plan are you on?? I'm on the basic individual one for 50 bucks a month, and it's unlimited data (text is part of data)

Re:I hope this actually puts some pressure .... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35411804)

I've never understood why everyone gets so offended at SMS rates. Why don't you complain about the markup on bottled water, too. What something is worth is whatever people will pay. You cannot begrudge a company a profit. It's why they exist.

Re:I hope this actually puts some pressure .... (1)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411894)

I've never understood why everyone gets so offended at SMS rates.

Try committing to a premium unlimited data plan then having one of your dipshit friends send you a bunch of SMS's as if he's using an instant messenger. I'd like to see you say "you cannot begrudge a company..." after that.

Re:I hope this actually puts some pressure .... (2)

FunkSoulBrother (140893) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411914)

I've never understood why everyone gets so offended at SMS rates. Why don't you complain about the markup on bottled water, too. What something is worth is whatever people will pay. You cannot begrudge a company a profit. It's why they exist.

When I ran a cafe, we purchased bottled water for $0.28 and sold it for $1.50. So roughly a markup of 5x-6x more than we paid for it.

Let me know when the carriers start charging 5x-6x what an SMS costs them, and I'll happily stop posting about SMS rates.

Re:I hope this actually puts some pressure .... (1)

Firehed (942385) | more than 3 years ago | (#35412090)

Unlikely, considering that SMS traffic is just filling empty packets so it literally costs the providers nothing on top of their existing infrastructure.

Re:I hope this actually puts some pressure .... (1)

xwizbt (513040) | more than 3 years ago | (#35412314)

Did you not feel even slightly guilty?

Re:I hope this actually puts some pressure .... (1)

praxis (19962) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411970)

I could care less what they charge to send a text message, for then I can decide whether or not the information I want to convey is worth the cost and the medium is the best one.

What I do care about is having to pay for text messages I receive. That leaves me open to large bills due out-side of my control or living with the feature at all. I haven't checked recently, but when I asked them if there was some method for me to whitelist numbers from which I wish to receive texts and block (without charge) the rest they told me no. Perhaps that's changed.

Why can't they just charge double for sending and make receiving free? That seems far more sane.

Collusion (1)

sjbe (173966) | more than 3 years ago | (#35412164)

I've never understood why everyone gets so offended at SMS rates.

Because the cost to the telecom company is almost zero and the only way it should be staying so high is if the telecom companies are either expressly or tacitly colluding. There is no other explanation for the cost of text messaging being as high as it is when all other forms of data are constantly dropping in price. Competition should be driving the price down but that isn't happening.

You cannot begrudge a company a profit.

Sure I can, especially if that profit comes at some detrimental expense to society or myself. I definitely begrudge the profit that tobacco companies make. Just because companies exist to make a profit doesn't mean any and all behavior becomes acceptable.

facebook very untrustworthy (5, Insightful)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411634)

the way facebook sells and shares private data is too scary, wouldn't want them to have personal contacts or phone browser information

US users can already text for free via data (1)

Khoa (935586) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411660)

Google Voice plus a few other services already offer this (sms only, no mms) via an app download. Only thing is that you'd have to tell your friends about your new number.

What will they think of next? (1)

jarrod.smith (580058) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411674)

Wow, that's amazing news. It does almost everything that email can do. What will they think of next?

Re:What will they think of next? (4, Funny)

avgjoe62 (558860) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411826)

I hear they're working on extracting fibrous cellulose from trees that, when dried, you can create images on using nothing more than a graphite stick.

Re:What will they think of next? (1)

Belial6 (794905) | more than 3 years ago | (#35412144)

The problem with email is that you have to install a separate application...Oh...right....

Really, this has the same problem that every other alternative have. It requires everyone to install the same app to be on the same network. The only draw I can see to SMS is that every phone has it, so if you have a phone capable of doing anything with any kind of data, you know you are compatible with everyone else. It is a question of critical mass.

This is why... (1)

bemymonkey (1244086) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411678)

... I've been boycotting SMS for, well, years. I only send or receive them when absolutely necessary (activating some service or other, or for Google's two-step authentication)...

SMS is bullshit, plain and simple. Then again, I doubt anyone at Slashdot wasn't already aware of that.

Re:This is why... (2)

characterZer0 (138196) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411730)

Verizon lets you disable all text messaging other than messages to and from Verizon services. See if your carrier does the same.

spies? moperers? talknicians? what's next? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35411684)

that's an easy one. more dead people. this is one of the most difficult public relations problems, or holycosts, unprecedented evile has faced yet? good thing our free press media won't let us down/leave us in the dark here? we can't afford to lose anything more? the price of gas,,, oh god.

if birds had radios in their butts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35412276)

there'd be music in the air at all times.

has anyone heard our 'swan' song?

BBIM (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35411692)

Isn't this why BB IM is so popular amongst young people?

Not normal Data (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35411694)

SMS isn't normal data. Ever notice how you can still send text messages even when you don't have a data connection?

Re:Not normal Data (1)

praxis (19962) | more than 3 years ago | (#35412006)

Yes, the underlying method for sending the bytes of the SMS message is different than IP. But, SMS is normal data. It's still a string of bytes. I think the argument is that the load on the network generated by SMS messages with their protocol versus the load on the network generated by IP packets with their protocal is not 50,000:1 in ratio.

Good-ish? (1)

GrumblyStuff (870046) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411700)

Anything to stop that horrendously unconscionable markup is a good thing. ...or so I'd say if it's under the Facebook umbrella. I didn't notice any technical talk but this is FB so I can only assume everything flows through their servers and is saved.

But wait a second... (1)

kevinmenzel (1403457) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411762)

I have limited data, but unlimited texts... so if anything, a large amount of SMS data would cost me near nothing... Is there any highish-latency browser that can use a stream of SMS texts for data? Cos that would be awesome...

Great, so voice and/or data call prices will go up (1)

glyphi (661141) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411768)

Do you really believe the carriers will put up with reduced profit? Remove their massive SMS income and other prices will rise to compensate. So I'm hoping Beluga doesn't catch on big time.

Not new (1)

headhot (137860) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411776)

You mean it will do what google voice has been doing for years?

Voice Data (3, Interesting)

Lord_Jeremy (1612839) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411788)

Cell phone networks use digital voice protocols, of course. Essentially, your audio is being streamed as a (compressed) data file over a data network. The GSM-EFR audio codec has a bitrate of 12.2 kbps. Obviously more modern phones probably use a higher-bitrate codec. That means for one minute of audio 60 * 12.2 kb or approx. 750000 bits of data is sent. One AT&T text message costs $0.20. The maximum size of an SMS message is 1120 bits (140 characters). That means in the data space of one minute of voice you could send 700 messages. At 20 cents each that's $140. Now I'm pretty sure that there aren't any cell phone plans (excluding sat phones) that cost $140 per minute of speech.

SMS and data traffic are two seperate things. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35411808)

SMS cannot be directly compared to data traffic. SMS is small amounts of data dropped into the signal that tells your phone that it's within range of a cell tower. Pretty much anywhere you have even the tiniest bit of cell coverage you can send and receive SMS. This isn't the case with Internet connectivity (email, gtalk, etc.). You can argue that SMS is too expensive for what it does, but since it's a "special" data path there's no reason for the carriers to charge a reasonable price for it.

Re:SMS and data traffic are two seperate things. (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#35412022)

I'd agree with you if A the transfer were free and B data was more expensive than SMS. As it is they're price gouging for something that doesn't cost them anything to provide, and in extreme cases have been willing to extend thousands of dollars worth of credit to allow people to be further gouged.

Re:SMS and data traffic are two seperate things. (1)

praxis (19962) | more than 3 years ago | (#35412092)

My data plan costs me 0.000000015 per byte. My SMS plan costs me 0.0014 per byte. That's a ratio of 95,238:1. Are you saying that it's reasonable for the price disparity to be such, solely because I do not need a data plan and to have strong enough signal to use it? Perhaps. But then you add that the carrier will pre-install an "IM" application that uses SMS to send and receive messages rather than using a data network.

Re:SMS and data traffic are two seperate things. (1)

spitzak (4019) | more than 3 years ago | (#35412350)

The price for *voice* data is about 10000 times less than for SMS data. It is being sent by the same radio to the same cell towers and has the same availability! In many cases the ratio is *infinite*. Me and my SO have a friends and family plan and can call each other for *free*, yet texting each other (which I suspect uses less data than the first 1/10 second of the phone call) costs 30 cents (15 cents for each phone)! Also somebody else texting me costs me 15 cents, yet if they called me it would not cost me anything (it may cost them more, however).

Who needs texting? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35411922)

I hear there's an app to make voice calls - actually speaking to a human!

I will never use texting - I've configured my BlackBerry firewall to block them - if TFS doesn't make a compelling argument, then perhaps learning that NASA can download images from Hubble for less than for you to send "hello world" to the person sitting next to you.

FLEECING!!

A Thursday (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35411958)

attention of Facebook, which purchased the company a Thursday.

They are going to need a Friday too. And probably a few more days. One Thursday isn't going to go very far for that kind of tech company

Not all carriers... (1)

TavisJohn (961472) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411976)

Not all carriers rape customers when it comes to TXTing. Sprint, for example, includes unlimited texting on all their data plans. So if you have internet on your cell, you also have unlimited texting.

USA Only? (3, Insightful)

Gonoff (88518) | more than 3 years ago | (#35411990)

In Europe, we have been getting better rates than you for years. I believe my teenage son sent over 3,000 text messages last month. Beats me how he manages to get good grades and play sports. I think his plan includes 500 talk minutes and "unlimited" internet - he has never gone over anyway. Costs £30/month because he wanted an extra clever phone. I think the cheap plans get down to between £10 and £15.

I have never heard of anyone paying to receive them. It's like post. The sender pays. The only real ripoff we have is roaming abroad costs and the phone companies are supposedly being compelled to lower them. I don't think you want that to happen in your country. That is government restricting business practices. We like it though.

This was not to laugh at you, but to show you what can be done as a start. We need to get it even lower here. Lobby your representatives or something.

Re:USA Only? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35412034)

Lobby your representatives or something
We dont want them looking at it they may do the exact opposite... They are not so bright...

Re:USA Only? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35412252)

Yep.. Welcome to America. Ruled by money. Telecoms (phone, ISP, etc) and TV providers are nothing but ripping off people. Because it is easy. Most of the American market is build on the consumer's idea that they have to have 1000 TV channels, Text messaging, etc and that it just cost that much. Of course a lot complains but it is empty complains because they still buy into it. Because the neighbor has it. And the government doesn't do anything about it. Why should they? Because they are lobbied by those companies to allow them to do it. And top of that. Fee after fee without no real purpose. Plenty of lawsuits over those and what happens/ If the public wins then the fees disappear only later be be replaced with a different one. Rinse and Repeat.

Re:USA Only? (1)

xwizbt (513040) | more than 3 years ago | (#35412278)

In the US it's quite common to pay for receiving messages or calls. I agree - it's rather odd. Imagine crippling your enemies by sending them a massively heavy signed for parcel...

"Two tons of lead, sir? What do you mean you don't want to pay - it's yours!"

Re:USA Only? (1)

ewieling (90662) | more than 3 years ago | (#35412344)

In the United States the called person pays for the call to the mobile phone.

Not going to replace SMS (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35411992)

the reason everyone uses SMS is because every phone can do it. Even if you don't have a texting plan the carrier will happily deliver the SMS to you can charge you for the privilege.

That's not true with data plans. So you'll always have that one friend who keeps texting you everything, and thus you'll still want the texting plan. then once you've got the texting plan why make it complicated for yourself by texting some people and beluga-ing others? Thus the cycle continues and we're stuck with the idiocy that is SMS.

It's the kids (1)

SpaghettiPattern (609814) | more than 3 years ago | (#35412010)

Texting is something we all do reluctantly. It's the way to reach older phones without data plans. And as long as data plans are too expensive to give to the whole family, texting will remain.

My wife and kids have smart phones without data plans, just plain prepaid service. Synchronising contacts and rearing mail can all be done near a wifi hotspot. Saves us tons of money.

There will be a time when data plans are cheap. But the time isn't now.

Fleecing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35412026)

This is why, if you use txt'ing, a fool and his/her money are soon parted.

There is such a thing as bad tech - imho this is one of them.

Txt'ing does nothing that a phone call can't!

But I guess if someone creates a service, no matter how absurd the cost, then as long as everyone uses it it it's OK.

Re:Fleecing (1)

kevinmenzel (1403457) | more than 3 years ago | (#35412160)

Texting creates a message that can be read at any time, with your phone at a distance, without interrupting your ability to listen to what is going on, with a length limit that forces people (generally speaking) to be rather quick in their communication. Therefore it has a distinct benefit over say, someone leaving you a voice message. It is also, for some things, more precise than a voice message - for instance "Call me at my office, 555-7983" - is quick to read, understand, and the important information (the actual phone number) is clear and precisely communicated - no worry about having to say it three times to make sure that they get the number.

So to compare SMS to voice communication is not necessarily 1:1, or even A>B. They both have strengths and weaknesses.

hahaaa google got shafted... (1)

xTantrum (919048) | more than 3 years ago | (#35412030)

All the members of "Team Beluga" are old google employees or worked on/at google. I find that really funny...wonder what google thinks of that. just sayin'

this will never work (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35412076)

Sorry, but I would rather trust my sms messages to a cell phone carrier who are forced by law to put privacy controls in place (government excepted), than facebook, who will sell my messages to the highest bidder...

Awesome (1)

NewsWatcher (450241) | more than 3 years ago | (#35412110)

The cost of text messages, down greatly.

The time taken to delete spam texts, up exponentially.

Innovative... (1)

Arricc (75463) | more than 3 years ago | (#35412146)

So... Facebook has an App that lets you send short 140 character messages across the Internet by data instead of by SMS..... aka... Twitter.

Re:Innovative... (1)

xwizbt (513040) | more than 3 years ago | (#35412298)

I like this - all you have to do is set up codenames and hope the right person reads it.:

"Rosebud - won't be home for tea. The Squirrel Flies South later, okay?"

Caller ID is the same principal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#35412202)

What is the cost per MB of caller ID on landline phones? Another probably larger rip off by the telecom providers.

Old School Solution (1)

macraig (621737) | more than 3 years ago | (#35412288)

What would happen to SMS pricing if people, en masse, simply stopped using it unless and until the price became actually reasonable and proportional?

Yes, I know... that solution requires educated consumers we don't have, but I can dream, can't I?

Mobile Facebook (1)

Kozar_The_Malignant (738483) | more than 3 years ago | (#35412364)

I can already do that by sending a message using the Facebook client on my smartphone. BB Messenger works great for folks with Blackberries. There are also 5 other IM clients on my phone. Although I used ICQ extensively years ago, its only function now seems to be receiving solicitations from Russian hookers.
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