Twittering Costs More Using The Hubble Space Telescope

May 14th, 2008 | By | Category: General, iPhone

Think text-messaging plans for mobile phones are a scam?

A University of Leicester space scientist has worked out that sending texts via mobile phones costs more than sending data via the Hubble Space Telescope. He worked out the cost of obtaining a megabyte of data from Hubble – and compared that with the cost of sending text messages.

“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,” explains Dr Nigel Bannister.

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.

He concludes: “Hubble is by no means a cheap mission – but the mobile phone text costs were pretty astronomical!”

The high cost of texting, and mobile service plans in general, is likely to be a barrier for the near future to the adoption of mobile content publishing.

Here are the details on Dr Bannister’s calculations:

“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 5p each, that’s £374.49 per MB – or about 4.4 times more expensive than the ‘most pessimistic’ estimate for Hubble Space Telescope transmission costs.”

Dr Bannister said it had been difficult to work out exactly how much Hubble data transmission costs. So he contacted NASA who gave him a firm figure of £8.85 per megabyte (MB) 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.”

Image: Tincho.·.·. / Andrés Martín

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6 Responses to “Twittering Costs More Using The Hubble Space Telescope”

  1. Ed Roberts says:

    The study appears rather misleading from the start. It makes it seem as though the study about how much text messages cost cell phone provider. Where did he got the 5p per message number? That’s what it costs me, the consumer, to send a text message (without it being on my plan… 10 cents per message). I’d find it REALLY hard to believe that the provider simply breaks even on text messaging. If that’s the case, I’d hate to see what a 1 minute phone call would cost them.

  2. James Lewin says:

    Ed – Dr Bannister does compare the wholesale cost of the space transmission to the retail cost of texting. But I think the comparison is just intended to demonstrate that the markup on texting must be tremendously high.

  3. arun says:

    Ed – Dr Bannister does compare the wholesale cost of the space transmission to the retail cost of texting. But I think the comparison is just intended to demonstrate that the markup on texting must be tremendously high.

  4. Danny says:

    Texting is a service, not a traffic cost medium. It is not charged per megabyte, and is not dependent on capacity, because it is best efforts and low in volume. Therefore, you are paying for being able to text from anywhere, to extend the network, pay for infrastructure and the administration of that, plus make a profit. Yes, texting is expensive, but priced to balance better use of bandwidth to free up voice lines, and also priced high enough that you want to call, rather than send five or six text messages. In otherwords, commodity versus cashflow.

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