Sending SMS costs four times more than receiving data from Hubble

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Sending SMS costs four times more than receiving data from Hubble

A UK space scientist has claimed that sending a text message is at least four times more expensive than receiving scientific data from space..

The shocking accusation was made by University of Leicester academic Dr Nigel Bannister, and formed the basis of Channel 4's Dispatches programme The Mobile Phone Rip-Off.

Dr Bannister worked out that sending texts via mobile phones works out to be far more expensive than downloading data from the Hubble Space Telescope.

The calculations compared the cost of obtaining a megabyte of data from Hubble and the average 10 cent cost of sending a text.

"The bottom line is that texting is at least four times more expensive than transmitting data from Hubble, and is likely to be substantially more than that," said Dr Bannister.

"The maximum size for a text message is 160 characters, which takes 140 bytes because there are only seven bits per character in the text messaging system, and we assume the average price for a text message is 10 cents.

"There are 1,048,576 bytes in a megabyte, so that's one million/140 = 7,490 text messages to transmit one megabyte.

"At 10 cents each that's $776.50 per megabyte, or about 4.4 times more expensive than the 'most pessimistic' estimate for Hubble Space Telescope transmission costs."

Dr Bannister was informed by Nasa that it costs $18.30 per megabyte for the transmission of data from Hubble to the Earth.

"This does not 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," he said.

"So that's $18.30 to get each megabyte 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 that the cost of the data from Hubble could vary between $18.30 and $176 per megabyte, which is much cheaper than the $776.50 per megabyte cost of transmitting one megabyte of text.

"Hubble is by no means a cheap mission, but the mobile phone text costs were pretty astronomical," he concluded.
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