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Carriers testifying on excess SMS fees

updated 02:00 pm EDT, Tue June 16, 2009

Testimony on High SMS Fees

A US Senate committee today has started taking testimony today from representatives of major carriers over concerns of climbing text messaging rates. The questioning of AT&T, Cricket and Verizon officials follows recent concerns raised by Senator Herb Kohl that the carriers may be colluding on price hikes for SMS even though the actual cost of delivering each message remains the same or is decreasing due to economies of scale. Most major cellphone services have often increased their rates within short succession of each other and rarely if ever drop prices.

It's unclear whether the company spokesmen will answer Kohl's request that these companies illustrate the cost of a text message relative to data and voice plans. The investigation was originally prompted by per-message rates for those either outside of a bundled messaging plan or encountering overages, as their SMS messages often cost 20 cents while the actual price of delivery is regularly less than 1 cent. SMS by its nature only has 160 characters per message and uses only a small fraction of the bandwidth available on the network at any given moment.

Some carriers, such as Sprint, automatically factor unlimited SMS into some bundles while others like AT&T and T-Mobile can charge as much as $20 in addition to existing plans for similar features.

By Electronista Staff


  1. LenE

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: May 2004


    Grandstanding won't fix

    As much as I would love to see them get grilled for the ludicrous and abusive SMS data prices, this will do nothing for the consumer. The problem is that SMS has become "productized" over its 24 year history. These companies will argue that people are willing and able to pay for this service "enhancement", ignoring the fact that it has been a required part of the GSM standard since 1985.

    The real crime is that these companies charge so much for so little data in each SMS message, compared with the data transfer required for any voice call. Also, charging customers both coming and going for sending and receiving the text snippets stuffed in the cracks of the protocol.

    SMS should really be thought of as the Closed Captioning of mobile phones, as that is exactly the type of delivery and content that it is.

    -- Len

  1. shawnde

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Apr 2008



    Well, maybe, but at least when they're probed about it, it might make them think twice.

    What may happen over the course of next two years, especially with the adoption of the iPhone, is that people will instead rely on IM and email instead of SMS, and not buy into carrier greed.

    It's ridiculous that they charge $20 for an SMS bundle or 20 cents per message. I would argue that the cost to the network is probably 0.001 cents per message - compared to say unlimited data for $30.

  1. Flying Meat

    Dedicated MacNNer

    Joined: Jan 2007


    I disabled text

    messaging on my phone. You should too!

  1. pcman

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Jun 2009


    sms messages

    sms messages and another value added services that uses sms like for example that allow you to send sms to landline phones, should be very cheap.

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