Wireless carriers charge up to 20 cents per message, but what does the service actually cost providers? Virtually nothing
In the past few years, people seem to be forgoing the conventional phone conversation to punching in short text messages on tiny keypads, all while mobile phone carriers have cashed in lucratively.
Sensing a potential rip-off, Wisconsin Sen. Herb Kohl, the chairman of the Senate antitrust subcommittee, began to take a closer look at the doubling of prices American carriers were charging customers.
Sen. Kohl soon discovered that text messages are essentially very small files, costing carriers close to nothing to transmit.
"Text messaging files are very small," the senator said, "as the size of text messages are generally limited to 160 characters per message, and therefore cost carriers very little to transmit."
Text messages aren't just tiny, they're also free riders tucked into control channels, or space reserved for operation of the wireless network. The channel uses space whether or not a text message is inserted.
This explains why a message has limited character space. It must not exceed the length of the message used for internal communication between tower and handset to set up a call.