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Is text messaging cheaper than calling? PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 14 January 2007
Seventeen-year-old high school student Kisann Chisholm punches away on her cellular phone then sends a text message. Not long after, her phone erupts in a musical frenzy, vibrating in her hand; she reads what appears on the screen and begins typing again.

After a few repetitions along with smiles and short comments, she completes her 'conversion' with a satisfied look.

Kisann explains that she was having a text message conversation with a friend, as they were trying to maximise the little credit they had on their phones.

Text messaging is, to her and her friends, the best way to stretch every dollar in credit they have.

"I don't think about losing the $3," says Kisann. "It looks cheaper than making the phone calls," she said.

In fact, that belief is widespread among teens whose love affair with texts was sparked initially by the offering of 'please call me' feature that allowed free transmission of a message from one party with limited credit to another party within the network.

But Warren Richards, customer service representative at cellular service provider Digicel tells Sunday Business that Kisann and other persons who choose text over voice transmissions, might not be saving money as they think.

"Sending a text message is convenient when the persons aren't able to talk at that particular time, but in other cases you might not get a speedy response or any at all," said Richards.

"You can get more out of a call conversation in one minute than what you can get from a text conversation."

tedious process

Cellphone user Richard McLeish says his experience suggests texts are less economical, and often far less convenient.

"I hate text messaging," he told Sunday Business. "It takes too much time and the conversation goes on for too long and sometimes I don't get to complete the conversation."

Digicel texts cost $3 within the network and $4 per message to another network.

Each text has a maximum of 160 characters, including spaces and symbols.

The cellular provider, by comparison, charges $10 per minute for calls made to phones in its network during peak hours, and $8 during off-peak. Post-paid customers enjoy half those charges - $5 per minute at peak and $4 off-peak.

At those rates, having a text conversation that entitles one party to send at least three messages is almost equivalent to a one-minute conversation that can cover more information than three 160-character conversations.

higher cost

If each party sends three text messages, totalling six between them or $9.00 per party, the conversation would end up costing $18.

A one-minute conversation, by contrast, is $8-$10 pre-paid.

Cable & Wireless Jamaica (C&WJ) customers, depending on the plan they are on, have different rates for text messaging and calling whether within their network or outside.

On the popular 10/8 plan, customers can send text messages to other C&WJ customers for $3 per message at the same 160 characters.

A customer service represen-tative at the company commented, however, that, if the message exceeds the allotted 160-characters, the customer is charged for two messages, equaling $6. Outside of the C&W network, the account is charged $4 per message.

Calls on the same plan are $10 during peak hours and $8 off-peak to any network.

For McLeish, text messages are no substitute for hearing another voice.

"I don't respond to them when I see them come in," he told Sunday Business. "Sometimes I return the call if it is important, but everyone knows that they should call me if they want to talk - and that costs them and not me," he added.

"Why not just call, spend one or two minutes and have the conversation instead of the back and forth, back and forth thing?"

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