So ignoring the annoyance of trying to draft up a message on the toy 10 key keypad on my phone -- which takes approximately 20 times as long as it would to say the same thing in a voice call, I started thinking about the economics behind the texting fad.
My provider charges me $0.20 per text message. My overlimit minutes cost about $0.25. (Picture messages cost more -- $1.95 each, I think.)
This is the biggest swindle made by phone companies in recent history.
Look at the data involved.
A phone call (voice message) takes the following bit of bandwidth:
- Assume 8-bit ULAW or ALAW sampling (12 bits compressed to 8 bits)
- Assume 8 kHz sampling, which is typical for "phone quality" audio
Now, consider a typical text message. Say 12 lines at 40 characters each. (That's more than my phone will display), each character at 8 bits (we'll assume ASCII for now, I can't imagine trying to conjure up CJK characters on my phone!), gives me 12 * 40 * 8 = 3,840 bits. (I didn't try to make the numbers work out as evenly as they do for this example, it just happened!) So, 3840 bits per message.
To a rough approximation a text message costs about the same to the consumer as a minute of talk time. HOWEVER, the bandwidth involved is approximately 1/1000. If everyone is texting instead of using the voice service, the service provider should have about 1,000 times more capacity!
Put another way, text bits are about 1,000 times more expensive to end user!
Now, consider pictures. $1.95 is nearly 10x the cost of a text message or a minute of talk time.
A fully decompressed 16-bit VGA (640x480) resolution picture takes about 4.9Mbits.
To a rough approximation, a picture takes about as much bandwidth as a minute of talk time. The picture is therefore 100x less expensive per bit to send than a text message, and about 10x more expensive than a voice call.
Of course the secret here is that texting is incredibly efficient use of bandwidth to send a message (compared to a voice call), especially with those wacky abbreviations (such as "c u l8r"), but the end user doesn't realize that it is costing the provider far less to send the same message via a text message. (Put another way, the end user has no idea how much network bandwidth is simply wasted with traditional voice calls.)
The mobile providers here have made a real swindle. The fact that they aren't trying to undercut each other on the text messaging does allude rather strongly to "collusion" in market pricing on them -- there should be a lot more competitive pressure to drive the cost of texting down, or even to offer it for free (especially with plans that have unlimited voice, such as mine).
In fact, the phone company should be begging me to use texting instead of voice calls, instead of charging me extra for texting.
Anyone from the mobile companies want to explain how you can get away with this swindle?
Ask your mobile provider why they aren't giving you texting for free with your unlimited voice plan!