How SMS Burns A Hole In Your Pocket

Updated: May 21 2003, 05:30am hrs
Old habits die hard. And there could be one you would want to get rid off.

Sending SMS (Short Message Service) is considered a trendy, cool concept among youngsters but it has also become a second nature for many mobile users in all age groups.

Nothing wrong in using SMS as it remains a convenient and discreet way to stay connected with your loved ones. But before you carry on, look at the price you are paying for the service. The chances are you can make voice calls at a lower price and save a couple of hundreds by way of monthly bill.

To recall history, one of the major reasons behind the initial popularity of SMS was its price. SMS used to cost just Re 1 as compared to a 1 minute call that set you back by anywhere between Rs 4 and Rs 8 (depending on service providers and tariff plans) in late 1990s.

Mobile phone users had reasons to cheer in the last two years as prices of almost all kinds of services were crashing every month. The long distance rates started tumbling in early 1991 from Rs 24 per minute (plus airtime) and touched the lowest ever at Rs 1.99 per minute (mobile-to-mobile) irrespective of distance and tariff plans. Incoming calls are now free and outgoing calls have also seen drastic fall in the last 3-4 years.

While substantial fall in local and long distance call rates had taken away the cost advantage of SMS, the price of SMS was not realigned in the process. Interestingly, the SMS rates were silently increased from Re 1 to Rs 1.50 (within circles) by a few operators such as Airtel and Hutch last year in few circles. While roaming, SMS cost Rs 2 for each message.

Now, consider the cost of using SMS as compared to existing voice rates. Take an example of an SMS conversation involving a total of 10 messages from both users. Both will spend (for 5 messages each from both the sides=10 messages) Rs 15 @ Rs 1.50 per message.

In a cheaper option, the same users can instead chat from 8 minutes to 30 minutes (depending on the outgoing rates applicable as per your tariff plan) at the same price.

In case of a long distance conversation (eg Delhi-Bangalore), the 10 messages will cost Rs 15 @Rs 1.50 per message. And going with the existing long distance rate of Rs 1.99 per minute, you can have a cool chat for more than 8 minutes at the same price.

Despite existing imbalances in voice and SMS rates, the operators claim to have no noticeable fall in the SMS traffic. The reason: People do not think before SMSing, its a part of their nature now, said a marketing head of a cellular company requesting anonymity.

However, cellular operators may not be able to enjoy the honeymoon for long as government operator Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) has spoiled the party by offering SMS at 60 paisa from May 1 this year. When contacted, Airtel spokesperson said the company is reviewing its SMS prices and may announce the new rate soon but Hutch chief executive Rajiv Sawhney has denied any plans to reduce SMS rates. Anyway, till you hear from them, watch your SMS addiction!