Telcos Are Ripping You Off For Text Messages…. But You Knew That Right?

Text message rates have been rising over the last few years. For example you’ve got a couple of carriers here in Canada who charge you for incoming text messages. All of these rate increases are done under the guise that it is expensive for carriers to provide this service due to the demands that it puts on their infrastructure. Now there’s proof that the carriers are flat out lying about this. The New York Times published an article over the weekend that has some interesting facts. For example:

A text message initially travels wirelessly from a handset to the closest base-station tower and is then transferred through wired links to the digital pipes of the telephone network, and then, near its destination, converted back into a wireless signal to traverse the final leg, from tower to handset. In the wired portion of its journey, a file of such infinitesimal size is inconsequential. Srinivasan Keshav, a professor of computer science at the University of Waterloo, in Ontario, said: “Messages are small. Even though a trillion seems like a lot to carry, it isn’t.”

If that doesn’t get you upset, this will:

Perhaps the costs for the wireless portion at either end are high — spectrum is finite, after all, and carriers pay dearly for the rights to use it. 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.

So what that means is that as long as the telcos have room for voice calls, they have room for text messages at no extra cost to them as long as you keep the message short (which most phones automatically force you to do).

Oh, but there’s more:

Once one understands that a text message travels wirelessly as a stowaway within a control channel, one sees the carriers’ pricing plans in an entirely new light. The most profitable plan for the carriers will be the one that collects the most revenue from the customer: unlimited messaging, for which AT&T and Sprint charge $20 a month and T-Mobile, $15.

Customers with unlimited plans, like diners bringing a healthy appetite to an all-you-can-eat cafeteria, might think they’re getting the best out of the arrangement. But the carriers, unlike the cafeteria owners, can provide unlimited quantities of “food” at virtually no cost to themselves — so long as it is served in bite-sized portions.

What scumbags!

Will this revelation change things? Thats hard for me to say. But don’t think for a second that carriers won’t figure out another way to screw you over generate replacement revenue if this is taken away from them.

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