Monday, December 29, 2008

Text Messages Are Cheap

...or should be.

Looks like we're being lied to a bit. The price of text messages has gone up over the past few years. Prices in the states have doubled, and here in Canada, Telus and Bell recently began charging for messages received as well as sent, citing the constant increase in text message usage:

"Canadians send 45 million text messages a day," said Hall. "That has created a tremendous strain on our network and we can no longer afford to provide the service for free."
These increases have even prompted Twitter to neuter their text message updates in Canada. Of course, there have been people saying for a few years (with math to back it up!) that the small size of text messages cannot cause enough strain to justify phone carrier prices.

Well, I've just read an article from a few days ago in The New York Times, saying that not only are text messages small, but that they're wrapped in a packet that the phone sends anyway!
"But 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."
(boldness added by me)
And so, from professor Keshav at University of Waterloo:
“Operating costs are relatively insensitive to volume,” he said. “It doesn’t cost the carrier much more to transmit a hundred million messages than a million.”
So, what's this BS of rising costs being because of increased usage? Prices gouging is wonderful, isn't it?

And people I know argue with me when I say cell phones are a ripoff. Ha!


  1. They are a rip-off, but the convenience can justify them. Especially instead of a land-line, the relatively slight premium can be a major draw.

    I'll continue to leap toward whichever carrier is the best value. One major draw to Fido (Rogers-owned) for me was that text messages, sending and receiving, are free if you get a certain number of minutes per month.

  2. i must switch. stupid telus contract!!!

  3. Search Engine, a CBC podcast I listen to had a rep from Telus on to speak about this: