R U Serious? Text Messaging Is More Expensive Than Downloading Data from Space.

By Melissa Lafsky
May 13, 2008 1:44 AMNov 5, 2019 8:43 AM


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Millions of cell phone users have adopted text messaging as a regular form of communication, to the point where the informal lexicon of "text speak" is infiltrating the school system. But all those "LOL"s and "C U l8er"s may be costing consumers a hefty price. Dr. Nigel Bannister, a space expert at the University of Leicester, compared the cost of sending a text message with the cost of obtaining a megabyte (MB) of data from the Hubble Space Telescope. Sure enough, the text messages were far more expensive. Bannister explains his calculations as follows:

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 5p. There are 1,048,576 bytes in a megabyte, so that's 1 million/140 = 7490 text messages to transmit one megabyte.

At 5 pence (10 cents) per text, that comes to £374.49 (about $734) per MB of text messages sent—around 4.4 times higher than the cost of transmitting the Hubble data, which, according to NASA, costs £8.85 (about $17) per MB to send to the first point of contact on Earth. Which might give you pause next time you go to send "LYSO M8, JK" to 35 of your closest friends.

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