the cost of sending text messages

1 01 2009

Most likely no one would be surprised if I said the cell phone companies are ripping us off with fees and various charges.  But someone has done some research into the costs of texting and I think you’ll find it interesting.  How much do you think it costs the carriers to send a text message from one cell phone to another?

Before, I tell you, let me present the fact that about 2.5 trillion text messages were sent in 2008, and it’s expected that about 3.3 trillion will be sent in 2009.  The price per text message went from 10 cents to 20 cents for all four major carriers in the past few years, unless you have a package plan that includes a certain amount per month.  This increase led Senator Herb Kohl (who is the chairman of the Senate antitrust committee) to investigate why this happened.

Senator Kohl wrote the companies about their pricing plans and they all replied, but they conveniently “forgot” to explain the cost of conveying text messages.  There is a reason for this…

Now let me explain what prompted me to write on this.  I learned that text messages are free riders on the network, using what’s called a control channel that’s reserved for operation of the wireless network.  That’s why text messages are typically limited to 160 characters per message — they have to fit within that space.  And here’s the kicker — the channel uses that space whether or not a text message is inserted.  See, that channel is used for the communication between the tower and your handset to set up calls.  So, in effect, text messages costs the carriers NOTHING.  Whoever thought to include the 160 extra bytes in the control channel was a genius…

Sure, the companies have an initial cost in setting up storage and transmitting equipment, but they’re doing that anyway for cell phone service.  So really, it costs them NOTHING to transmit a text message from one cell phone to the next.  So their text messaging charges and package plans are pure profit to them.  Think about that the next time it sounds like a good deal to get unlimited texting at $15 or $20 a month.

Doesn’t it make you wonder why our cost for sending text messages went up?

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One response

2 01 2009
retroman

In a capitalistic system, this sort of thing is just fine. However I “beat the system” via free SMS messages on my google chat, before that I spent 9 cents on Skype, then 5 cents on Gizmo.

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