Scientist Says Texting is More Expensive Than Downloading From Hubble

Does your cell phone bill ever reach astronomical proportions? Maybe you’re doing too much texting. One space scientist has worked out that sending texts via mobile phones works out to be far more expensive than downloading data from the Hubble Space Telescope. Dr. Nigel Bannister from the University of Leicester looked at the cost of obtaining a megabyte of data from Hubble and compared it with the cost of sending a text. His calculations? “The bottom line is texting is at least 4 times more expensive than transmitting data from Hubble, and is likely to be substantially more than that.”

Bannister says, “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 5 pence (about .10 USD). There are 1,048,576 bytes in a megabyte, so that’s 1 million/140 = 7490 text messages to transmit one megabyte. At 5p each, that’s £374.49 ($734.25 USD) per MB – or about 4.4 times more expensive than the ‘most pessimistic’ estimate for Hubble Space Telescope transmission costs.”

Dr Bannister said NASA provided the numbers of £8.85 ($17.33 USD) per megabyte for the transmission of data from HST to the Earth.

“This doesn’t include the cost of the ground stations and the time of the personnel along the way, but it is an unambiguous number for that part of the process. So that’s £8.85 to get each MB from Hubble, to the first point of contact on the ground, but no further. Hence we need to go a little bit further to estimate exactly how much it costs to transmit data from Hubble to the end user – i.e. to the data archive which scientists can access. This is difficult, so I had to make some conservative assumptions.”

Dr. Bannister estimated the cost of the data from Hubble could vary between £8.85 and £85 per MB- much cheaper than the £374.49 per MB cost of transmitting one MB of text.

Surprised by the results, Bannister said, “Hubble is by no means a cheap mission – but the mobile phone text costs were pretty astronomical!”

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13 Replies to “Scientist Says Texting is More Expensive Than Downloading From Hubble”

  1. I’m pretty sure he isn’t factoring in launch and maintenance costs of ‘the network’ as well. It’s not a great comparison, but it still brings home the point: most telecom data rates are exploitative.

  2. Yeah, then all the text crazy folks can be called “Nas-holes”.

    Thank you, I’m here because it’s free.

  3. Something always smelt fishy about telecom companies. It’s part of the New World Odour. HA!

  4. Seems cheap to me. General rate broadband over cell in Canada goes for about 4c per Kb. That’s something like $41/Mb. Yup, that means getting data from Hubble is half the price of checking the weather on my Rogers phone. Sigh.

    I mean, I know we have the most expensive data on the planet; I just didn’t realize it extended past that.

  5. Ok. Sweet mother of Gord, your txt costs are only 5p? That’s slightly less than 10c Canuck. And most per-use plans here are 15-20c per use. I swear we should burn something down.

  6. In India, where we have the world lowest mobile tariffs, texting is free. Beat that NASA!

  7. The cell companies are making a profit, and no company seems to be making a huge profit overall. I can only assume the people who text are subsidizing those who don’t text.

    Personally, I HATE texting. I actually hate IM’s. If someone else wants to subsidize my access to a network that lets me talk for 990 miles of a 1000 mile trip, all I can say is THANK YOU THANK YOU. When those providing the subsidies revolt, we’ll pay a little more for air time, I suspect.

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