I started thinking about sms and instant messaging the other day. Actually I was thinking about how MTN seems to keep fleecing me for more money and/or just can’t maintain a working and reliable billing system. I started thinking about the relative cost of an sms compared to, say, the same amount of text sent as an instant message and I turned up a few interesting figures.

All that thinking persuaded me to embark on a very dangerous activity: using calculators and figures to work out what messaging costs on MTN’s network. The table below represents that effort:

SMS costings

Here are the resources I used to come up with these figures:

Now it is very possible that I got the calculations wrong (in which case, please feel free to correct me) but it seems to me that we are really paying a lot of money for sms messages compared to what it costs to send the same amount of text across a data network (even at MTN’s R2,00 per MB for data).

None of this is news though. Mxit’s success is due largely to the cost of messaging across a data network. At the same time, it is a good reason to start exploring instant messaging or similar solutions on your mobile device. Many people are already doing just that and are using instant messaging applications like Fring and, my preference, Nimbuzz which support multiple instant messaging services instead of good old fashioned sms messages. Heck, you can even use Fring or Nimbuzz to make VOIP calls, cutting your voice telephony costs on mobile networks too!

Of course those kids and their Mxit have been sticking it to the networks for a while now. Perhaps we should follow their lead?

Update: Saul Kropman just pointed out this article which reveals just how little sms messages actually cost networks.

Update 2: I read the NY Times article properly after my last update and realised just how much the networks take advantage of their customers with sms services. Andrew Glanville expressed the main point quite nicely in a comment on Facebook:

Glanville comment.png

Image credit: Text Message by another.point.in.time licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 2.0 license.