Do you quite happily fire off text messages to your mates because they're quick, easy and more importantly cheap? Well maybe it's time to think again about the cheap part.
There was a program on TV a couple of weeks ago about the costs of sending text messages (SMS) and the scientist on the program calculated that the cost of sending a text message is more than 4 times that of a Hubble Space Telescope transmission.
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 - or about 4.4 times more expensive than the ‘most pessimistic’ estimate for Hubble Space Telescope transmission costs.
Whilst it's impressive comparing the cost of text messages to data transmission from the Hubble telescope I don't think many people can relate to this. Using the above explanation, lets put this into terms the average user can relate to - broadband costs.
Lets take Freedom2Surf's (my ISP) cheapest broadband package - Lite.
This is by no means the cheapest broadband package available, though it is cheaper than BT's equivalent offering, but I have to say from experience, it's probably one of the most reliable companies to be with. I've been with them for nearly 5 years now without any problems. If you want to switch to F2S based on my recommendation, please let me know and I'll send you a referral email from F2S. Anyway, I digress.
This package costs £13.99 a month, and for that you get a maximum transfer of 10GB per month (at speeds of up to 8Mbps). Now lets make some assumptions and do some maths to put the cost of text messages into the context of home broadband costs...
First some important information: there are 1024 megabytes (MB) in a gigabyte (GB) and using the figures quoted above, you'd get approximately 7 669 584 text messages from 10GB of data.
Assumption 1: You actually do manage to send a full 10GB worth of text messages from your mobile phone.
Total Cost: A whopping £ 383 479.22 - You could buy a house for that!!!
Assumption 2: You could send all 7 669 584 text messages from your home computer without any additional costs other than your monthly broadband cost.
Cost per SMS: £0.000001824 - they don't even calculate petrol to that degree of accuracy.
So there you have it: text messages are a complete rip off, especially when you consider most people actually pay MORE than 5p a text message. You can argue that the cost of the infrastructure, other networks, connection charges, "free" phone handsets, salaries etc all add to the cost of the SMS, but somehow I don't think to this degree. Most of the infrastructure costs would have occurred in the early days of mobile phones.
Whilst I'm not against making a profit - I am a capitalist at heart - I am against being ripped off, and I think this clearly proves this isn't about providing a service, this is about making a killing.