# Space scientist says texting is four times more expensive than receiving scientific data from space

##### May 12, 2008

A University of Leicester 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’s calculations were used for the Channel 4 Dispatches programme “The Mobile Phone Rip-Off”.

He worked out the cost of obtaining a megabyte of data from Hubble – and compared that with the 5p cost of sending a text.

He said: “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.

“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.”

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!”

Source: University of Leicester

Explore further: Comcast abandons Time Warner Cable bid after gov't pushback

## Related Stories

#### Hubble, the telescope that revolutionized our view of space

Apr 21, 2015

Hubble, the first telescope to revolutionize modern astronomy and change our view of the universe by offering glimpses of distant galaxies, marks its 25th year in space this week.

#### Spacewalk No. 2: Astronauts doing more Hubble work (Update)

May 15, 2009

(AP) -- Atlantis' astronauts headed out for another spacewalk Friday, this time to give the Hubble Space Telescope some new, badly needed gyroscopes and batteries.

#### Astronauts have trouble with repair work at Hubble

May 15, 2009

(AP) -- Spacewalking astronauts had to install a refurbished pair of gyroscopes in the Hubble Space Telescope on Friday after one of the brand new ones refused to go in.

## Recommended for you

#### Comcast abandons Time Warner Cable bid after gov't pushback

Apr 24, 2015

What killed Comcast's \$45 billion bid for Time Warner Cable? Regulators' desire to protect the Internet video industry that is reshaping TV.

#### Comcast deal may be dead, but cable consolidation will go on (Update)

Apr 23, 2015

Even if Comcast's \$45.2 billion bid for Time Warner Cable is dead, consolidation among the companies that pipe in our TV, phone and Internet will carry on.

#### Google wireless phone service challenges major carriers

Apr 23, 2015

Google is trying to shake up the wireless phone industry with a low-priced service designed to pressure major carriers into making it more affordable for people to get online and use Google's services.

#### Comcast expands 2-gigabit Internet service

Apr 22, 2015

In the race for speed, Comcast soon will offer the fastest residential Internet speed in the country to its 1.3 million residential customers in South Florida.

#### Google launches its own mobile telephone service

Apr 22, 2015

Google said Wednesday it was launching its own US mobile wireless service, with considerable potential savings for customers using their devices at home and for international travel.

#### Streaming, binge-watching gain in US: survey

Apr 22, 2015

American consumers are increasingly streaming television instead of viewing live broadcasts, often using services like Netflix for binge-watching, a survey showed Wednesday.

##### CreepyD
5 / 5 (3) May 12, 2008
a lot of people pay 12p per text..
##### rfw
4 / 5 (4) May 12, 2008
Information services should be organized as utilities, not for-profit enterprises.
##### MikeMarianiMD,FAAP
2 / 5 (6) May 12, 2008
Ergo, should our culture endore yet another preposterous waste of money? How much does our killing cost in Iraq?

4.6 / 5 (7) May 12, 2008
This is so blatantly obvious, I don't see the point of the article, or anyone's surprise to it.

The hubble is just transmitting one way, to a ground based reciever.

Cellphones trasmit via multiple towers/relays/decoding/encoding/international/satalite uplinks... which all cost money to maintain.

Lets see more useful articles on this site please?
##### Glis
not rated yet May 12, 2008

You pay for convenience, period. Of course it's way overpriced, but so is coffee and fast food. At least they included some numbers so you got an idea of the scope.
##### KennethWF
3.7 / 5 (3) May 13, 2008
I agree with ShadowRam, the comparison just doesn't make sense. If you'd like to compare SMS to satellite communications, compare it to something like OSCAR. http://kennethfin...nse.html
##### drm
4 / 5 (4) May 13, 2008
In the Philippines, the cost of an SMS is 1 peso, which is around 1p. They use the same infrastructure, so why is the price 5 times higher in the UK?
##### Funk_Phenomena
3.3 / 5 (3) May 13, 2008
Yeah, another meaningless study.... Seems more fit for passing thoughts while drinking a soda than any part of academia.
5 / 5 (1) May 15, 2008
This is a riot. Completely laughable. They are comparing apples with oranges. The hubble rate excludes the infrastructure costs of launching and maintaining a satellite. Hmm, now lets exclude infrastructure cost for the cell phone...
This is a big reason why some academics lose credibility when they talk with the business world.
Why not compare text costs with sending the message via the moon or via mars. What a joke.
They should compare commercial rate for 2 way satellite communications. These take into account all the entire infrastructure cost. I can assure you that the cost is more, otherwise we would already be using it!
##### Zig158
3 / 5 (2) May 23, 2008
"Information services should be organized as utilities, not for-profit enterprises."
Lets make them operate like the government; the government does everything much more efficiently than a for profit company.
##### Soylent
not rated yet May 24, 2008
Information services should be organized as utilities, not for-profit enterprises.

Sure, if you want it to be even more expensive and wasteful just remove competition.
##### Soylent
5 / 5 (1) May 24, 2008
In the Philippines, the cost of an SMS is 1 peso, which is around 1p. They use the same infrastructure, so why is the price 5 times higher in the UK?

Because UK construction workers would refuse to work for the same wages as people in the Philippines, cost of suitable land is higher, rent for sticking cell transmitters on suitable buildings in a UK city is higher. It's quite likely taxes and worker safety requirements are higher as well.

And because you'll get more protests from NIMBY's with imaginary microwave radiation allergies and other rebels without a cause.