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Just How Bad Are Carriers Fleecing Us With Text Message Charges?

RantIf you remember a bit back we mentioned that text messages cost about $1,310 per megabyte to send. I know a little part of me justified it by saying that carriers need to keep up the network necessary to send such messages which is why the cost is so high.

Randall over at the New York Times did a bit of investigative reporting into how text messages work. Turns out that text messages are sent in what is called a “control channel” which is bandwidth space reserved for operation of the wireless networks. That is why there is a 160 character limit so that they piggyback on this already required channel.

From the article:

Text messages are not just tiny; they are also free riders, tucked into what’s called a control channel, space reserved for operation of the wireless network.

That’s why a message is so limited in length: it must not exceed the length of the message used for internal communication between tower and handset to set up a call. The channel uses space whether or not a text message is inserted.

So I guess there are only two reasons left for why carriers are fleecing us for text messages. First of all they probably have to pay the other carriers to send and receive messages sent between networks. The second is that they just realized that they can make a boatload of money off of them…

So anybody want to place bets on whether prices will be up to $0.40 a message by the end of 2009?

via Engadget Mobile & Gizmodo

8 total comments on this postSubmit your comment!
  1. Here’s the thing – people need to reduce their reliance on SMS – it is silly to pay for something twice. Email is free, and on a BlackBerry, it is practically instantaneous anyway. Paying extra for a tiny little ’email’ is silly.

    Carriers have sold people on SMS to make extra money for nothing. That little segment of the cell signal is already ‘used up’, even if there is no SMS in it.

    My wife sends little one-word SMS’s from her iPhone to me. I think that is silly. She only has 200 SMS’s coming, and wastes them on little one-word messages!

    I cram as much as I can get into an SMS, like 150 characters! I get my money’s worth, see?

  2. That’s what I meant when I said in the previous rant thread that SMS aren’t actually sent as “data”. They are a bandaid hacked onto the analog cellular network infrastructure and are thus exceedingly limited.

    As to why carriers charge so much for it, simple. Because they can. Society has become addicted to SMS since it is the only technology that is so ubiquitous. Essentially EVERYONE has a cell phone, and ALL cell phones are capable of SMS, whereas only a fraction of folks have a email capable device on their belt/in their purse 24/7. The folks making money off of SMS have done a magnificent job marketing it. The ONLY way to halt the continued reliance on SMS and its outrageous fees is just say NO. Call your carrier and ask that SMS send and receive be disabled on your account. They may complain about doing it, but they WILL do it.

  3. I never use SMS (never = try to avoid has hard as I can) because I can use BBM or GTalk, but sooooo annoying when people start txting me several texts in a row as if we where in a chat. Each time that’s a hit on my bill. I should have to accept the charges before I get to read it. Don’t just ding me for something I don’t want and call it a “service.”

  4. UK users on any UK network currently don’t pay to receive txts even if they are roaming. I choose if/how I repond. Many of the contracts here are starting to offer minutes and ulimited txts (in the UK) too.

  5. Great news I just called telus and disabled but my phone and the wifes SMS.
    That’s a saving of $10 a month.

    We both don’t text each other anyways.

    Thanks for the post and the info!

  6. I knew this all along. It’s why I’ve never used text messaging.

  7. Meh, I’m not overly bothered by the whole thing …. though I certainly would be if my phone company charged me $20/month!

    With my plan, I pay $5/month for unlimited text messaging.

    Last month I sent 463 messages and received 395.

    So I paid $0.00582 for every text message sent and received. I can live with that.

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