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RANT! $1,310 Per Megabyte For Text Messages

RantI was preparing all of my wrath to write a rant on higher text messages when this post by Nicholas Deleon of CrunchGear stole my thunder. Nicholas did some basic math and found that at $0.20 per 160 bytes translates into $1,310 for one megabyte (1,048,576 bytes) of text messages. Note: This assumes that you use all 160 characters of each text message.

Even if you have a 200 text message plan you are still paying 2.5 cents per text message.

I could not agree with Nicholas more. Then one of the comments by Marc reminded me of this article from back in the day. Some bored Scientist from Leicester had free time to calculate that it cost 4 times more to send a text message to a friend than it costs NASA to send the same data to the moon!

And yet I still have a $5 text message plan. (Muttering to myself!)

7 total comments on this postSubmit your comment!
  1. I agree that is crazy (nice to have unlimited for $15) but I average 2500 a month. However if you figure the math on 160 bytes into 1MB, you are looking at 6553.6 txt messages to reach that goal. I am sure that a lot of people have done it, but I am also sure they are/were on unlimited txting. Still crazy though.

  2. Yeah its just crazy that I pay $45 on AT&T for unlimited data and then get hosed on SMS charges that are essentially tiny packets of data.

  3. “are essentially tiny packets of data.”
    Well, sorta. SMS is sent via your cellular voice service, NOT your data service. SMS works ubiquitously regardless of if a user has a data service or not, hence the carriers feel they can charge these extra fees for it. I was paying $10/month extra for unlimited SMS via Verizon, but found that I was MAYBE receiving 100 and sending 10 or 15 a month. Those 100 or so I was receiving are all data services (sports and weather) I can get via Viigo Tango now for free, and the wife and I can PIN/BBMessenger each other, so I’ve canceled that $10/month as well as enabled the SMS block that Verizon offers (so I don’t get hit with unwanted incoming SMS charges).

  4. Well, each character is only 1 byte if they are using ASCII. Switch to UTF and all bets are off. A single UTF-8 character can be quite a few bytes long.
    Plus there’s the overhead of the SMS wrapper, which is a constant number of bytes regardless of message length.

    Of course, you still arrived at the right conclusion. SMS fees are ridiculous profiteering by cell companies because they’ve got us by the balls.

  5. Right, but still, SMS isn’t data and isn’t sent across the air like data. It is a kludge of sending text bytes across phone airwaves, and costs the carriers far more to implement and support than does sending text bytes over a data connection. Are the fees unreasonable? Yes. Is there a better way? Yes, but not with the ubiquity of SMS.

  6. DavidB: I’d like to know your definition of “data”. SMS *is* data, and it *is* sent across the air. So is your voice when you call somebody. So clearly you’re not communicating your idea very well. What makes voice/SMS data different from, say, web browsing or e-mail data?

  7. SMS (and voice) are transmitted/received by carrier and your phone differently than other “data”. As example, on Verizon, SMS and voice uses the CDMA connection and web browsing and PIN messaging and etc. uses the EVDO connection. Yes, they are both digital “data”, but they are handled differently by both the carrier and your device. That is why they are treated differently by carriers. It is also why cell carriers are not real keen on VOIP for mobile devices, as your “calls” would then use your “data” connection rather than your “phone” connection, and they couldn’t charge you “minutes” like they do now. BOTH SMS and voice are very inefficient in how they use the radio waves, but until your “phone” is just a “data” device (when 4G comes?) There will be this disparity inservices (and how we are charged for them). Hope that makes sense to you. Regardless of the logic, just because it is “text” does not mean it is “data”. SMS is a “data” holdover from when cell phones were analog devices and had to “modulate” that text over the phone connection just like an old dialup modem has to “modulate” your PC web browsing over the landline telephone system (versus DSL or cablemodems that do it ALL digitally) that didn’t understand “data”. All the phone system understood was sound, just like cell phones only understood sound, and SMS was the cellular industry’s way to offer you “data” over a connection that only understood “sound”.

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