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Cellphones Space The Almighty Buck

SMS 4x More Expensive Than Data From Hubble 410

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the and-much-less-space-porn dept.
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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SMS 4x More Expensive Than Data From Hubble

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  • by faloi (738831) on Monday May 12, 2008 @11:05AM (#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.
  • by LingNoi (1066278) on Monday May 12, 2008 @11:05AM (#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.
  • by superphreak (785821) on Monday May 12, 2008 @11:09AM (#23378406) Homepage
    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...
  • old chatter (Score:2, Interesting)

    by luvtheedragon (1175245) on Monday May 12, 2008 @11:11AM (#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.
  • by Guanine (883175) on Monday May 12, 2008 @11:18AM (#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?
  • by Hatta (162192) on Monday May 12, 2008 @11:19AM (#23378546) Journal
    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:Math is HARD (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Art Popp (29075) * on Monday May 12, 2008 @11:20AM (#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:Double dipping (Score:5, Interesting)

    by psmears (629712) on Monday May 12, 2008 @11:34AM (#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:This just in... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Hyppy (74366) on Monday May 12, 2008 @11:43AM (#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?
  • Re:Double dipping (Score:5, Interesting)

    by _xeno_ (155264) on Monday May 12, 2008 @11:59AM (#23379148) Homepage Journal

    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.

  • by InsaneProcessor (869563) on Monday May 12, 2008 @12:11PM (#23379332)
    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.

    You, my friend, have no concept of your expenses and how much you waste. I pay $100 for 4 phones with voice mail and all of the fancy features. I get 1000 minutes a month anywhere in the US and unlimited to any T-mobile phones. They want to charge me $0.15 per message that I receive. I have no control over anyone sening me messages so I, as a customer, am screwed. I don't even want this service and am forced to pay for it anyway. They will not turn it off.

    This is highway robbery and is wrong! How do we stop this?
  • Re:Double dipping (Score:5, Interesting)

    by TheRaven64 (641858) on Monday May 12, 2008 @12:14PM (#23379384) Journal
    Option 3:

    Have a day when everyone in the country sends an SMS to their senator and their representative and see how long the practice is allowed to stand when every politician has mobile phone bills in the tens or hundreds of thousands.

  • by tompaulco (629533) on Monday May 12, 2008 @12:19PM (#23379476) Homepage Journal
    I, on the other hand, find the spoken word to be much more adaptable in getting the point across. I could end up writing paragraphs trying to anticipate every possible misunderstanding, or I could just call someone and see how they are responding to my point and adjust accordingly. I just don't understand how people can spend an hour texting back and forth a couple of paragraphs worth of information when they could have picked up the phone and had the conversation finished in 3 minutes.
    Maybe it is because I am getting older or busier, but I just don't have time for text messaging.
  • by ceoyoyo (59147) on Monday May 12, 2008 @12:58PM (#23380028)
    A better analogy would be the old joke about the lemonade being ten cents but the cup is a dollar.

    The carriers will cell you data transfer in the form of voice for a somewhat inflated price. They'll sell you data transfer in the form of arbitrary data for another price, sometimes higher, sometimes lower, depending on where you live. Or they'll sell you data transfer in the form of text messages for an insanely inflated price.

    The lemonade is reasonably priced, but if you want it in a cup then you're going to pay through the nose.
  • Re:Math is HARD (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Luyseyal (3154) <{ofni.yul} {ta} {sretaws}> on Monday May 12, 2008 @01:02PM (#23380102) Homepage

    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.

    Do you have a URL for an article that states that the SMS network is so overwhelmed with text messages that all non-unlimited (limited) customers must subsidize their unlimited brethren at an incredible mark-up?

    'Cause, really, I think it makes far more sense that carriers abuse their captive audience with outrageous pricing of extremely inexpensive commodity SMS service. But I've been wrong before.

    Cheers,
    -l

  • by honestmonkey (819408) on Monday May 12, 2008 @02:34PM (#23381606) Journal
    It's atheism. It's an 'ism'.
    A - not
    theism - belief in the existence of a god or gods; specifically : belief in the existence of one God viewed as the creative source of the human race and the world who transcends yet is immanent in the world (copied from Merriam Websters).

    Not collecting stamps would be aphilately. Well, maybe not [wikipedia.org].
  • by Bryansix (761547) on Monday May 12, 2008 @04:59PM (#23383822) Homepage
    All that tells me is that it costs more to BILL for the SMS text message then to SEND it. Maybe they should just stop charging for it if you pay monthly for a cell phone.
  • by cluckshot (658931) on Monday May 12, 2008 @07:08PM (#23385396)

    Somebody is loopy! SMS may be charged a lot for and well these charges are high but the cost of SMS is exactly a grand total of NOTHING.

    I know you are probably asking how and that is quite simple. Your cell phone transmits a 256 byte message very regularly to the receiving tower and it transmits a corresponding message back to you regularly. This is how your cell phone connects to the network and how they know you are able to receive calls etc. This message has 186 bytes of blank space in it .... unless .... you put an SMS message out or they transmit one to you. SMS rides in this carrier byte packet. As such it costs the network exactly nothing and uses no bandwidth that isn't already in use even if nobody ever sent an SMS message.

    So this gets really nice for the company. They bill astronomically for a "Free Good" and we stupidly allow them to bill us for this. SMS should be 100% free with cell phone service. Even the message handling costs are insignificant world wide for this and nobody should ever be billed for it. Of course we stupidly allow them to sell it and we of course buy it stupidly.

  • Lameness of it all (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jroysdon (201893) on Monday May 12, 2008 @09:44PM (#23386744) Homepage
    I've got a Blackberry w/Verizon for work with an unlimited data plan. I can send and receive all the emails I want via my Inbox (tied to my corporate Exchange), or via Gmail, or even via ssh to my shell account with Alpine. They still charge to send and receive (SMS?) text messages. How lame is that? I can use my tethered modem and get a VPN started and use my Cisco IP Communicator, no extra charge, but no text messaging for free!

    My Wife has Cricket, which has unlimited calling and unlimited texting - but doesn't allow her to send emails. Well, it says she can't, and complains each time she does ("Cricket does not support this activity at this time"), but usually it goes through. I think there is a work-around by sending an MMS (?) message and that allowed emailing, but still complains.

    It's all lame. If we're paying for what accounts for unlimited data, just give us unlimited data.

  • by Splab (574204) on Tuesday May 13, 2008 @01:30AM (#23387988)
    No they wont.

    SMS is expected to arrive instantly these days. Here in Denmark SMS can cost down to 1 øre while just making a call is 25 øre, so people have begun using SMS as communication instead of calls - and thus expect it to be instant.

If I have seen farther than others, it is because I was standing on the shoulders of giants. -- Isaac Newton

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