Text Messaging in Canada = Krazy Times in Canada

by Irma Arkus

Spectrum auctions have resulted in some major cash grabs. Apparently, the CRTC pertains that funds from the auctioning of the wireless spectrum will be reinvested into growth of infrastructure in Canada.

Infrastructure? Excuse me? Hmmm. Is that not why we Canadians have been paying exorbitant amounts for our Telco services? So the Telcos can “reinvest” them into infrastructure? Am I mistaken? Sadly, no.

The infuriating news that have rattled the cages came on the heel of release of Canadian iPhone. Inflated pricing finally became the straw that broke the camel’s back, as most have winced at the opportunity to spend hundreds of dollars more a month for the luxury of having the amazing iPhone. iPhone which, I may add, is neither amazing, nor qualifies for such high fees.

To top it off, text messages, traditionally seen as a viable way of reducing traffic and giving something gratis to customers in most EU, North American and Asian nations, are now to fall play to additional fees.

Interpreted as an unmistakeable cash grab, this move struck a cord with most Canadians. For one, text messaging traffic is so comparativel small to that of voice apps, that its usage does not strain existing infrastructure.

Secondly, it is worthwhile pointing out that the fees indicated for text messaging are incredibly high for no particular reason, except for Telcos wanting to make a higher margin of profit, and possibly recoup funds spent on auctions (and fast!). 15 cents per text message is an incredibly high fee. If fees were to be raised to a flat fee of a few dollars, for unlimited text usage, the news would have gone over comparatively well.

Finally, we are faced with 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, BC. Only a year ago has the Vancouver City Council faced a flabbergasting question – what about availability of WiFi coverage during Olympics?

They had no answers, but everything seems to indicate that WiFi should and will be a public service established across the city, provided as a simple public utility, rather than some fandangled privately-owned enterpreneurial abyss of funds and desperation.

We are stuck a la Groundhog Day with our service providers, because we rely on private companies to provide public services. We keep on paying higher fees because we rely on private corporations to develop for-profit services. We keep on building infrastructure that keeps on being handed over to private companies, instead of building accessible and affordable public services. How is Canada going to build an information society, a nation of professionals and enterpreneurs, if the very access to information is being narrowed and excessively growing in costs? This is what I ask. And I would text our politicos too…if I had the money.

To illustrate the cost analysis of text messages, none is better than this one provided by Globe and Mail’s Sarah Schmidt, which clearly illustrates that 15 cents charges are something we could potentially see if we were to communicate with our loved ones…on Mars:

“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. “For most cellphones, a voice call is five kilobytes a second to get an average quality call. That’s the equivalent to 50 or 100 text messages,” said Chase.

Chase pointed to a recent study by University of Leicester space scientist Nigel Bannister as a useful reference to show the proposed 15 cent fee is “absolutely ridiculous.”

Bannister compared the cost of sending a text message with the cost of obtaining a megabyte of data from the Hubble Space Telescope. He calculated that if companies charged customers 10 cents per text message, that would translate into a cost of about $734 per megabyte, about 4.4 times higher than the ‘most pessimistic’ estimate for Hubble Space Telescope transmission costs (of $166 per megabyte).”

“Hubble is by no means a cheap mission, but the mobile phone text costs were pretty astronomical,” Bannister concluded in his study.”

For full Sarah Schmidt article please visit Globe and Mail HERE