Wednesday, May 14, 2008

In the UK, Texting is More Expensive than Receiving Scientific Data from Space

From the I-can-c-ur-house-from-here-LOL department:

In the UK, sending text messages is more expensive than receiving scientific data from space. Nigel Bannister of the University of Leicester says that sending text messages from cell phones costs more than downloading data from the Hubble Space Telescope (pictured).

According to NASA, the cost of sending data from the Hubble to earth is £8.85 ($17.23) per megabyte (MB). Comparing this value with the average 5p (10 cents) cost of sending a text message in the UK, Bannister calculated that texting is at least 4.4 times more expensive that than sending data from Hubble.

The amount given by NASA doesn't include the cost of the ground stations and the time of the personnel along the way, it takes £8.85 get each MB of data from Hubble to the first point of contact on the ground, but not further. Because Bannister had to estimate how much it costs to send data from Hubble to the end user (known as the data archive which scientists can access), the actual difference in cost is likely to be much higher.

The maximum size for a text message is 140 bytes (160 characters at 7 bits per character). According to Dr. Bannister, there are 1,048,576 bytes in a megabyte, so that's 1 million/140 = 7490 text messages to send one megabyte. If the cost of sending each text message is 5p, that’s £374.49 ($728.94) per MB, roughly 4.4 times more expensive than the cheapest estimate of the amount needed to send data from Hubble.

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