Two of Canada’s largest telecoms announced plans for charging additional fees for incoming text messages on their mobile users’ subscription plans according to today’s Ottawa Citizen article. For Bell Mobility customers, the fee would include charging 15 cents for incoming text messages (apparently including charging for spam messages!).
In arguing for the change:
The companies say the phenomenal growth in popularity of text messaging – to 45.3 million daily today from 369,000 per day in 2002 – has increased costs on their networks to keep up with the demand.
So with higher costs, then pass it on – that’s fair enough, right? But as consumers footing the bill, how can we assess this? Most marketplaces (imho) have consumers who are just too busy, too uninformed, or just plain lazy when it comes to being active, informed, and engaged with their vendors – but maybe not in this case. There was enough of a consumer uprising that even the Minister at Industry Canada joined in on the consumer backlash.
So could it be a fair price increase? Sounds not, when you consider this assessment:
..wireless technology expert Ken Chase said he doesn’t accept the rationale from Bell and Telus that the volume of text messages places great demands on the networks. The consultant with the Toronto-based firm Heavy Computing said that while 45.3 million text messages sent daily sounds like a lot, the amount of space this takes up on a network and related costs to a telecom company are minuscule.
A text message sent via mobile phone can be no more than 160 characters, and each character is about a byte. If 45 million text messages are sent throughout Canada every day and each message is about 100 characters, this totals 4.5 gigabytes. This amounts to about the same amount of gigabytes required to download two or three high-resolution movies from the Internet.
And in comparison to the cost of transmitting a voice call on cellphones, text messaging chews up far less space on a network. “A voice call is five kilobytes a second to get an average quality call. That’s the equivalent to 50 or 100 text messages,” Mr. Chase said [my emphasis].
So a whopping 4.5 GB of text messaging data per day across Canada! How many of us would have taken the time to figure that one out?
On a related note, there’s a similar consumer backlash associated with the introduction of the first iPhone in Canada. See the Ruined iPhone site.
Postscript (from a letter to the editor):
At the rate of 15 cents per incoming message, and with the industry standard maximum length of a text-messages being 140 characters, the minimum price per megabyte of this data is a whopping $1,123.47. That’s only to receive SMS text messages.