Are you paying too much for text messages?

Author:  Charley Wang

Institution:  University of Toronto
Date:  June 2008

Government agencies often catch a lot of flak over their management of finances. NASA, in particular, has been subject to ridicule over the fictional, but oft-cited, story of how, in the middle of a heated Space Race between East and West, the American agency spent millions of dollars developing a pen that could write properly in space.

But it turns out that even NASA with its million-dollar pens has out-budgeted the average consumer, at least when it comes to sending messages. According to University of Leicester space scientists, the text messages sent from your cell phone cost at least 4 times more than messages sent from the Hubble Space Telescope.

Nigel P. Bannister found that, with the largest possible text messages sent at just under 10 cents per message, individuals pay about $737 per megabyte (MB) of text message information. Sending data from the Hubble costs a mere $17 per MB. Even if we factor in the cost of things like ground stations and personnel, a megabyte of Hubble data still costs no more than $165/MB.

However, despite the astronomical costs, text messages are still nothing to cry over. A megabyte of text messages translates to almost 7500 messages which, combining CTIA statistics and Bannister's calculations, comes to less than $18 a month for the average consumer with no texting plan. So what's the take-home message from all this? Well, the next time you text home just think – E.T. could've phoned home for less!

Written by Charley Wang

Reviewed by David Metcalfe

Published by Pooja Ghatalia