Mobile Telco Making $$$ from SMS

Posted: 30 December, 2008 in Gadgets & Toys, Tech & The Net
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I’ve been telling this to my family and my friends long time ago … I can’t remember the number of times I said this.

“Use SMS or Text Messaging sparingly”

Why? Because if SMS is used too much, the users are at the losing end. We are actually paying more than making a voice call. Let’s make up a scenario, a friend texing another buddy to confirm a lunch meet, the place and the time.

friend SMS: Hey buddy, the lunch meet on?

buddy SMS: yup, it’s on. long time din see ya

friend SMS: OK see ya this afternoon, Cheers Pub, 2pm.

buddy SMS: Alrite, c u there

There are four messages exchanged between the two friends. At an average of 15sen per sms, It costs them 60sen for this communication. I’d just make a voice call, say everything I wanted to say like the above, and the conversation could be done in less than one minute … 30 seconds perhaps. And that costs only 30sen if yo are on a prepaid plan, or as low as 12sen on postpaid. The Telco is making twice as much in such situation.

Additionally you get hear a human voice at the other end which makes a phone call more personal, and less prone to miscommunication.

friend SMS: Set! Angelina Jolie and Brad will be joining us.

buddy SMS: Yeah! right

The friend could be joking or he could be telling the truth. It’s difficult to tell when we are just reading words. Even worse, some words are shortened to the point of being cryptic. The reply by the buddy could be interpreted an “OK” response, meaning he gets the message. Or, “Yeah! right…” said in a different tone of voice could be a response of disbelief … “Yeah, as if he known Brad and Angelina”. This kind of vague communication could end up with more messages exchanging between the two friends.

I am not against the Telco making money … it’s good for the economy, but we’re spending on this SMS unnecessarily.

Here’s an article I read from Gizmodo, highlighting that SMS transmission has no actual cost to the TELCO.

Text Messages Are an Even Bigger Ripoff Than You Thought

We all know that text messaging is overpriced, but the NYT has pulled back the technological shroudto find out that the prices aren’t just bad, they’re practically extortionate.

The article goes into depth about how text messages are transmitted. In short, texts are unsurprisingly transmitted between towers over the main, wired network in the same way as cellular data, a portion of the journey that, considering the tiny amount of information in a 160-character text, costs very close to nothing.

Surely then, the carrier incurs costs to transmit the messages from towers to handsets. After all, this is the wireless part of the journey, and wireless costs lotsa $$$, right? No:

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.

You read that right: for carriers, sending a text message from an extant wireless tower to your handset is more or less free. If it’s any consolation, the article also mentions that the Senate Antitrust Committee is kind of looking into the matter, so we may see relief (or even retribution) within the next 10-40 years. [NYTvia BB Gadgets]

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