The Cost of Text Messaging

A couple of weeks ago there was an post in a New York Times blog about the cost of text messaging that I would like to briefly recap here. A British space scientist, Nigel Bannister, ran some quick numbers and concluded that

“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 [about 10 cents]. There are 1,048,576 bytes in a megabyte, so that’s 1 million/140 = 7490 text messages to transmit one megabyte. At 10 cents each, that’s [$734] per MB - or about 4.4 times more expensive than the ‘most pessimistic’ estimate for Hubble Space Telescope transmission costs [of $166 per megabyte].”

So basically, consumers have allowed mobile phone companies to charge literally astronomical rates to send a text message: we pay at least 4.4 times as much to send a text message than NASA does to download data from the Hubble Space Telescope (in cost per unit data, anyway). I can’t believe we put up with that. Disgusting, I think.

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