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The Cultures of Texting In Europe and America 207

Posted by Zonk
from the thumbs-are-slow dept.
Ponca City, We Love You writes "The cultures of text messaging are very different in Europe and North America, according to an internet sociologist named Danah Boyd. Americans and Canadians have historically paid to receive text messages, but 'all-you-can-eat' data plans are beginning to change that. All-you-can-eat plans are still relatively rare in Europe. When a European youth runs out of texts and can't afford to top up, they simply don't text. But they can still receive texts without cost so they aren't actually kept out of the loop. What you see in Europe is a muffled fluidity of communication, comfortable but not excessive. "
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The Cultures of Texting In Europe and America

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  • First post?? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by phantomfive (622387) on Monday November 26, 2007 @02:14AM (#21475733) Journal
    Hmmmm nobody seems to be very interested in this story. I can see why, the text of the story itself is enough to put someone to sleep. A long blog entry in small type with no pictures, and not especially interesting anyway.

    People text until they have to start paying for text messages, then they don't text so much. Is this really surprising? College students and high schoolers text more often. That's about it.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by slimey_limey (655670)
      It's not that nobody is here. Thing is, the story was retroposted by something exceeding two hours.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by harmonica (29841)
      I didn't know about how people are charged in America, so this was interesting to me. The sheer number of text messages sent by typical teenagers was also a point of interest.

      The font size is normal. If you consider that text long, how did you manage to get through school, let a alone a typical Slashdot comments page? As for the lack of pictures: this is not kindergarten. Nobody needs those symbolic images used in typical online news articles that never add anything to the story (a candidate in this case: a
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by foobsr (693224)
        The font size is normal.

        Last time I checked 'x-small' was not considered normal.

        CC.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Seumas (6865)
      Unlimited texting plans in America seem to be around $20/mo and individual messages are about 15 cents (so one message plus the recipient replying to you will cost each of you 30 cents for a total of 60 cents). How fucking much do you have to be texting in a month to make this worthwhile? If you're a kid, go home and get on the computer and use IM if you absolutely need to chat. Or if you have a cell phone, PICK UP THE DAMN THING AND DIAL.

      I know people who run through hundreds or thousands of messages every
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Piazzola (965798)
        I can give one good reason: I have a hearing difficulty. Certain people's voices, including that of my ex-girlfriend, are very difficult for me to understand over the phone, so she and I tended to hold long conversations by text message while we were still dating but temporarily away from each other. It was hell on my bill (seeing as I DIDN'T have an unlimited plan) and between what I sent and what I received, we easily got into the thousands of messages.
      • by cayenne8 (626475)
        "I know people who run through hundreds or thousands of messages every month. What in the hell do you need to say so badly that you can't call someone or IM them from a computer? I mean, YOU HAVE A CELL IN YOUR HAND. Why would you opt to text instead? And don't tell me "because most situations require that you be discreet in your communication". Really? Where in the hell are you wasting the majority of your waking hours that you can or need to send thousands of text messages?!"

        I never knew much about text

        • Here in the UK, during the 2005 suicide attacks on the London Underground, neither texts nor calls could get through.
  • by zanderredux (564003) on Monday November 26, 2007 @02:20AM (#21475753)

    I, for the life of me, cannot understand why in the US telecom users get billed for stuff they receive. I read somewhere that it had to do with technical limitations around billing systems and that it just became like that by tradition (or because US law made it impossible to reverse it)

    Clearly, who makes the call is the party who has the necessity to communicate, not the receiving end. Why continue to bill in a way that contradicts basic economic reasoning???

    • by mah! (121197) on Monday November 26, 2007 @02:36AM (#21475833) Homepage
      for the life of me, cannot understand why in the US telecom users get billed for stuff they receive.

      hear, hear. [slashdot.org]
      Not only this, but this mechanism of paying for 'airtime' on received calls, just as for received SMSes, is so engrained in most cellphone users minds that they'll strenuously defend its 'logic' (excessive use of quotes intended).

      It'd be just as bizzarre to charge the receiving party for a long distance phone call. Yet apparently cellphone users accept it, just as they accept the absurd incompatibility between GSM and CDMA (good thing TDMA got scrapped at least) as inevitable side-effect of a 'free market' (yup, there are those quotes again).
      Funnily enough, there are very few [wikipedia.org] other countries around the world who charge cellphone users for receiving an SMS or a cellphone call... of course, <sarcasm> this is because of GSM's anti-capitalistic approach </sarcasm>.

      • by dascritch (808772) on Monday November 26, 2007 @05:12AM (#21476489) Homepage
        I'm in France and before the launching of the GSM, we had a analogue radiotelephone system (commercial name was "Radiocom 2000"). In the beginning of the 1990s, my father got one in his car, and the number he had was a local one (attached to our town, namely was beginning in 61, latter, with new numbering plan, it would be 05 61, or "geographical" when starting with 01-05). People who called him where paying a "normal" price (the monopolistic france telecom were running very excessive tarrifs at this moment), and he was charged of the price difference. Because of the local number he was allocated, the consumer was believing his call charged as a landline one. With the new numbering system, the "06" prefix was attached to mobile operations, pagers (still some), analogue, and the brand new GSM systems with a public (Itineris, aka France Telecom, finally named Orange) and a private operator (SFR). That prefix (and the ones like "08" for premium charged rates) are differently charged because they are not "geographic numbers". And so, GSM are not billed when they receive calls, but their correspondents are paying more, because they know that "06" is a mobile line. When "triple play" FAI started their box (namely, Free.fr, with internet, tv, and phone), the new phone line you got from their modem had a 087x number attributed. A very big problem, because Free was advertising that their number have a local tarrif everywhere they are called, but France Telecom (historical operator, still proprietary of all the landlines, concurrent with the Wanadoo/Orange brand) was attributing thoses numbers until 1998 the premium numbers. Because of the exploding demand onto these boxes, and to stop the confusion, since last years, all "degrouped" lines via triple-play FAI, have now 09 prefix. Don't think that Orange is raging about that : now they're happy because they hotlin have less angry phonecalls about inconsistent billings...
      • by cayenne8 (626475)
        "t'd be just as bizzarre to charge the receiving party for a long distance phone call. Yet apparently cellphone users accept it, just as they accept the absurd incompatibility between GSM and CDMA (good thing TDMA got scrapped at least) as inevitable side-effect of a 'free market' "

        Well, to be fair...Joe Q. Public really has no idea or, nor concern with...the technology or acronyms behind how his cellphone works. GSM, CDMA, ABCDE....he hasn't a clue what you're talking about. As long as the phone rings, a

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by phantomfive (622387)
      OK, text messages are one thing, but paying extra to CALL a cell phone just sucks. How do you know if you are calling a cell phone? You don't, until you get the bill at the end of the month. So then you have to keep track of who has a cell phone and who doesn't, and when you want to borrow someone else's phone, they always ask, "are you going to call a cell phone?" No way. Let the person who has the cell phone worry about if it is more expensive for them or not.

      That was my feeling after living in a p
      • by _merlin (160982) on Monday November 26, 2007 @02:51AM (#21475897) Homepage Journal
        In most countries you can tell whether a call is to a mobile or not from the number, and you can decide whether you want to pay to call a mobile. For example in Australia, mobile numbers start with 04, and in China mobile numbers start with 13. If a non-mobile number is forwarded to a mobile number, the owner of the forwarded number pays the mobile call rate (as opposed to the caller or the receiver).
        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by RowanS (1049078)
          And also most mobile phone tariffs in Australia now charge the same rate to call a mobile or fixed line anywhere in the country, so it doesn't really matter.
          • It matters a hell of a lot if you call a mobile from a land line. Calling a local land line is 30c for unlimited time. Calling a mobile is 40c a minute. Ridiculous! Granted, I'm on the cheapest plan [telstra.com.au] but even on Telstra's highest premium plan [telstra.com.au] charges 37c a minute for non-Telstra mobile numbers. Plus a 39c connection fee.

            I can get a calling card for dozens of countries for less than 1c a minute, so why in the world are these calls so expensive?
        • by jamar0303 (896820)
          Actually, there are certain cellphone numbers in China that look the same as landline numbers. These are PHS phones, and as such are charged the same as landline calls. They're cheaper too (I believe there's some kind of unlimited calling plan for them for about $15-20). They only work in their home city, though- that's how they get treated as landlines.
        • by Echnin (607099)
          But in China you pay to receive too (China Telecom Beijing)... well actually you don't have to; 10 kuai a month lets me receive up to something like 300 or 500 minutes a month...
      • by Frogbert (589961)
        In Australia we have this amazing system where mobile phone numbers start with different numbers to land line numbers.
        • by NMerriam (15122)

          In Australia we have this amazing system where mobile phone numbers start with different numbers to land line numbers.


          In America we have this amazing system where we can keep our phone numbers regardless of what device we're using. We don't have to tell everyone we've ever met to update their phone books when we change from a land line to a cell phone or from one company to another.
          • by _merlin (160982)
            Can you keep the same landline number in different geographic regions? Didn't think so. How is that any worse than having a different number for landline or mobile? We can keep the same number when we change companies or move a landline within a local area. We can keep our mobile numbers wherever we go, on whichever company we want. The US system gives the carriers an excuse to keep the stupid receiver pays system in place.
            • by NMerriam (15122)

              Can you keep the same landline number in different geographic regions? Didn't think so. How is that any worse than having a different number for landline or mobile?

              If you change from a landline phone, which is provided by a regional company, to a phone provider that isn't regional, then yes, you can keep the old regional part of the number. And people change phone companies and technologies a little more frequently than they move thousands of miles, so even without that, it's still an advantage.

              You consid

              • by _merlin (160982)

                You consider our billing system stupid, I consider it stupid to ask *ME* to pay extra for what device someone else is using.

                And should the receiver pay for a long distance call? If you don't want to pay, don't make the call. I don't want to pay for receiving unwanted calls from telemarketers. I don't want to pay to receive text messages used for verifying online transactions. I like being able to pay for a call to a pre-paid mobile service with a balance of zero. If I want to call a person and be abl

                • by NMerriam (15122)

                  And should the receiver pay for a long distance call?

                  The receiver isn't the one choosing the long distance service. Since the receiver IS the one choosing which cellular service to use, they're the only one in a position to shop for a better deal.

                  Look, I'm happy you like your system. But it really, truly, seems just as stupid to us as ours seems to you. I think it's perfectly reasonable for *me* to pay for *my* desired level of mobility. I would consider myself a jerk to ask my friends to pay extra to cal

              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by Yer Mom (78107)

                I consider it stupid to ask *ME* to pay extra for what device someone else is using.

                Well, I consider it stupid to ask *ME* to pay to receive a call when I didn't even ask the caller to make it. Particularly a problem with SMS, as you can't even look at the CLI and hit Reject.

                Roll on free universal wi-fi. Then we can just use SIP and the IM clients of our choice :)

          • by zsau (266209)
            So area codes in America aren't geographically based then? Do you always have to dial all ten digits of a number every time you call?

            In any case, in Australia most adults who've always had a land line also have a mobile phone, so they actually have two numbers, whereas younger people tend to only have a mobile phone and if they have their own home they might have a landline but not generally use it. (What good is switching your number from a mobile to a landline if you can only receive calls then when you'r
            • by NMerriam (15122)

              So area codes in America aren't geographically based then? Do you always have to dial all ten digits of a number every time you call?

              In any case, in Australia most adults who've always had a land line also have a mobile phone, so they actually have two numbers, whereas younger people tend to only have a mobile phone and if they have their own home they might have a landline but not generally use it. (What good is switching your number from a mobile to a landline if you can only receive calls then when you'

      • by Bogtha (906264)

        paying extra to CALL a cell phone just sucks. How do you know if you are calling a cell phone?

        In the UK, all mobile phone numbers start with 7. I believe this is common in other countries as well, so charging more to call a mobile phone is perfectly reasonable in these places.

      • by zsau (266209)
        04xx xxx xxx = pay extra (mobile, anywhere in Australia)
        03 9xxx xxxx = don't pay extra (Melbourne)

        just the same as

        02 xxxx xxxx = pay extra (NSW, ACT)
        03 5xxx xxxx = pay extra (regional Victoria)
        1800 xxx xxx = pay less (free call)

        I gather Americans like their system of conflating mobile numbers and local numbers because you can easily switch from one to another, but I'd personally like to know if I'm calling a mobile so I can know how likely they are to answer it. And number portability would confuse everyone
        • by NMerriam (15122)

          I'd personally like to know if I'm calling a mobile so I can know how likely they are to answer it.

          That's precisely part of the reason we *didn't* allow cell phones to get stuck on a different prefix, we didn't want people to be treated differently because they were using a cell number (whether good different or bad different). We wanted cell service to be a transparent addition to the existing phone network, and only the cell customers would have to worry about any adaptations that were necessary or extr

    • Why continue to bill in a way that contradicts basic economic reasoning???

      To play devil's advocate...

      You have the option to not pick up - especially with caller ID coming by default on most cell service.

      Ultimately, a call requires the same resources, on your provider's end, whether you make or receive it.

      It is arguably more contradictory of basic economic reasoning to try and figure out some consistent rate that receiving service providers get paid by the calling provider being the sole billing party.

      Say it is agreed that 10c/min should be split 5c for the calling provider's cos

      • by deniable (76198)
        How about the phone companies have wholesale pricing. If you put a call onto my network you pay me $x/min. You then pass this back to the guy who made the call. It means that each link in the chain is a customer of the next guy and believe me, billing systems are the part they get right every time. Given that phone companies are evil, greedy bastards do you think they will trust each other to share costs? No, they'll treat each other as customers. It's one of the reasons why it's cheaper to call some count
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by cyberwench (10225)
        Unfortunately, simply choosing not to pick up won't necessarily make a difference. I had the most ridiculous bill when I was down in the States visiting despite my not picking up any calls that came in. The reason was, the cell company billed you for the roaming call simply because they had to use other people's lines to make the phone ring - regardless of whether you picked it up or not. Good luck finding that one in the FAQ.

        Thankfully, I'm finally rid of this horrible company and I'm on a nice tiny plan w
    • by NMerriam (15122)

      I, for the life of me, cannot understand why in the US telecom users get billed for stuff they receive. I read somewhere that it had to do with technical limitations around billing systems and that it just became like that by tradition (or because US law made it impossible to reverse it)

      Clearly, who makes the call is the party who has the necessity to communicate, not the receiving end. Why continue to bill in a way that contradicts basic economic reasoning???

      Because it's the person receiving who has chos

      • by jrumney (197329)

        SMS spam is nonexistent in the US because it's impossible to know what numbers are cell numbers.

        You can't send SMS to landlines in the US?

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by mah! (121197)
          You can't send SMS to landlines in the US?

          Mostly not. Amazing eh?
          There was no teletext [wikipedia.org] either. (not that the two are related technologies)

          Lack of standards in both cases I guess... from wikipedia: "Adoption in the United States was hampered due to a lack of a single teletext standard and consumer resistance to the high initial price of teletext decoders."
          The same place which finally produces a reasonable unlimited data plan [att.com] can't seem to offer simple data services such as landline SMSes as standard.
          A

    • by Yvanhoe (564877)
      Yeah, I am sure that phone companies are really worried about this illogic reasoning that brings them extra profit on the short term. Of course, never mind the fact that in the end people try to phone less, they don't have that kind of long term planning.

      Oh, and don't believe that it is hard to change the billing system. I remember the beginning of the cell phone era, when texting was free. That's right FREE. I heard that originally it was developed by telecom engineers as a test protocol. Then it was re
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Tim Browse (9263)

        Oh, and don't believe that it is hard to change the billing system.

        Oh, believe it :-) When MMS (multimedia messages) first hit the UK, everyone charged a fixed rate per month for the ability to send them - except for Orange. When quizzed on why they were 'ripping off' their customers, Orange responded that the reason they were the only ones charging per message was simple - they were the only company with a billing system that could charge per MMS message. All the other telco's billing systems needed upgrading, and they would charge based on the number of messages sent

    • by grotgrot (451123) on Monday November 26, 2007 @04:35AM (#21476353)
      The reason is because the US does not use dedicated area codes for cellphones like most other countries do. Consequently as a caller you cannot tell the difference between calling someone's home phone vs calling someone's cell phone as they will have the same area code. Conceptually the reason why you have to pay for incoming calls is because the call goes to your home area via conventional means, and then goes by radio to your phone. You have to pay for that last radio hop. (Of course it doesn't really work like this now, but that is how it all started). This also means that you don't get charged extra to call a cellphone as happens in many other countries.

      US consumer psychology is also very different. Historically US consumers have always preferred fixed bills versus variable bills, even though many would save money with variable bills. This is the reason that local phones calls are free - the cost is fixed, not actually free. The Internet also took off here early on because of that - plans were almost entirely fixed cost. For cell phones, everyone fixates on the plan with how many bundled minutes it includes (fixed cost). Competition has led to voice minutes being underpriced, so the carriers ding on other services such as data, SMS, sending/receiving picture messages etc. Some carriers (Verizon Wireless) go so far as deliberately crippling features in phones they sell so that the only way to do various things is via them, for a charge. (And in general phones are carrier locked in the US, and cannot be used with another carrier even if unlocked, or can but with significantly reduced functionality). Verizon even went so far as making SMS messages very expensive if you don't buy a bundle to encourage people to sign up for bundles they mostly don't use fully. To put things in perspective, a text message consumes about as much bandwidth as one tenth of a second of voice, but is typically charged the same as 60 to 90 seconds of voice.

      Apologies for not being able to cite the consumer preferences for fixed billing source. A story was posted on /. several years about the research paper, but I haven't been able to find it again.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by bytesex (112972)
        Pfff ! Collectively bearing the cost of a service; what are those Americans you speak of - communists ?!
      • The reason is because the US does not use dedicated area codes for cellphones like most other countries do.

        That's not the reason. There are mobile-device area codes (e.g., 917) and if it were desired (or desirable), they could be implemented nationwide.

        The receiver-pays billing system is a specific policy choice.

        There are only two ways to keep termination costs under control.

        1) Strictly regulate them: "You may only charge up to US$0.02/minute to terminate a call."

        2) Allow the market to sort it out: "Ca

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Captain_Chaos (103843)

        The reason is because the US does not use dedicated area codes for cellphones like most other countries do.

        That makes perfect sense! Thanks, I'd been wondering the same thing for a long time. In the Netherlands all mobile numbers start with 06, so a caller can alway tell they're calling a mobile number. So receiving mobile calls or text messages is free. Except when the receiver is roaming abroad. The caller may be able to tell they're calling a mobile number, but not that the phone is currently abroad, s

    • by xlsior (524145)
      I, for the life of me, cannot understand why in the US telecom users get billed for stuff they receive

      Easy -- Because then the carrier gets money twice.

      And since that's standard practise among cellphone carriers, it's not like there's a huge incentive for them to stop doing it.

      (It is unfortunately, though -- I was pretty much forced to disable texting on my own cellphone because it got a ton of junk texts on it (recycled number?), and didn't feel like paying either the $10 unlimited texting option no
      • by Xiaran (836924)
        was pretty much forced to disable texting on my own cellphone because it got a ton of junk texts on it (recycled number?), and didn't feel like paying either the $10 unlimited texting option nor felt like paying $0.10 for each unsollicited message

        I think this statement sums up the weirdness that non Americans feel about your cell phone billing systems. Something like what you describe should really be illegal.
    • by Kadin2048 (468275) * <slashdot.kadinNO@SPAMxoxy.net> on Monday November 26, 2007 @05:42AM (#21476615) Homepage Journal
      It's quite simple. For a 'dialer pays' system to work, you need to know that a number is a mobile instead of a landline. That means giving out mobile numbers that are different from landline numbers.

      That's just not how the U.S. system involved. When the first cellphones came out, the networks were operated by the local/regional telephone companies, and they gave out local telephone numbers for them, from the blocks they had been assigned, just like any other line. (In fact, getting a local number was pretty important, so that people calling you wouldn't have to pay long distance, and neither would you when you called them -- early AMPS plans frequently didn't have unlimited long distance.)

      No regional cell operator was in a position to offer nationwide service early on, and there frankly just wasn't that much top-down coordination driving the process (and why should there have been? they were expensive toys for rich people). I doubt that the switching system could have handled a national cellular prefix or area code without a huge overhaul, anyway. That's just not how it was designed. Combined with the fact that there just aren't enough available area codes in the U.S. POTS namespace to give every current area code a secondary 'mobile area code,' and there's just not a feasible way to do dialer-pays.

      Plus, I think dialer-pays plans in the U.S. would have held back the adoption of cellphones significantly. One of the reasons people liked cellphones was that it gave you a real, regular local phone number, which happened to be mobile. The calling party never had to know it was mobile. Really, what the U.S. system boils down to is "convenience pays." If you want the convenience of a mobile, you pay for it. The caller just pays for the landline call to wherever the area code that the number is located in, the person with the cell pays for the airtime over the cell network. I think this is pretty fair, actually, and judging by how quickly cellphones became popular, I think a lot of other people did, too. (Also: the only dialer-pays extra-fee numbers in the U.S. are the "1-900" numbers [wikipedia.org], and they're generally regarded as pretty sleazy; the domain of phone-sex operators and psychics, mostly. Not the sort of thing you want your budding technology associated with.)

      In short, a caller-pays system just would not have been feasible in the U.S. given how the system developed, and I think if the issue had been forced, bad things (including a delay in uptake of the technology or consumer rejection) could have resulted. There are fundamental differences between the cellular market in the U.S. and Europe (which stem, in not insignificant part, from the fact that European phone systems were still a lot more centralized during the inception of cellular service than the U.S. was), and I don't think there's really any reason to assume that what works in one place is necessarily the best everywhere. The European system may seem conceptually more consistent, but the U.S. system allows for no-change number portability from landlines to cells, and makes cell lines 'equal' for a caller to a traditional landline.
    • One of the issues is that in most of the world, mobile number start with a specific prefix (06 in .nl, 04 in .au, 07 in .uk and so on) but in the US they do not. Instead, your number starts with the area code of the area (or close to) where you bought the phone and callers can not tell the difference between a landline (cheap to call) and a mobile (expensive to call) like you can elsewhere.

      Taking that into account, it starts to make sense that if you are the one who decided to be on an expensive network, yo
    • by weave (48069)

      Makes sense to me.

      With multiple carriers I can shop for the best price I can, on both received and sent calls. If all incoming calls are charged to the caller, then the person calling you has to be charged whatever the telco wants. There's no economic incentive to drop the cost. The caller to a mobile number can't shop for a better rate.

      In the U.S. buckets of minutes are so cheap it's not really an issue.

    • It certainly used to be the case in the UK that the 10p per sms message fee was charged entirely by the senders network provider. Network providers charged no fee to recieve incoming sms messages from other providers. The amount of inter-network traffic was fairly even, so the fees gathered on each message leaving the network covered the costs of delivering those that entered.

      However, there was an increasting number of bulk-sms (ie spam) sending companies, these companies were generating lots of messages, w
    • by saforrest (184929)
      I, for the life of me, cannot understand why in the US telecom users get billed for stuff they receive

      On the other hand, Europe takes it "the initiator pays" to a degree that might be considered extreme to North American tastes: when calling a European cell number, you pay much, much more than you would when calling a European landline. (This is the case in France and Italy at least.)

      When I learned this a couple years ago, the difference in price was a factor of 10. Of course, with Skype now this aspect o
    • Why continue to bill in a way that contradicts basic economic reasoning???

      You're looking at one side of the economic equation, which is consumer psychology. The person placing the call is the one requesting a service, therefore he alone should be billed.

      I'm not sure I find this argument all that compelling. Would most people find a mobile phone that could place, but not receive, calls to be useful? I carry a phone because I want people to be able to communicate with me, and I'm willing to pay for the ser
    • by cervo (626632)
      AT&T prior to their wireless division being bought by Cingular did not charge to receive text messages. Even after the buy, until I renewed my plan as a Cingular customer I received free text messages. Unfortunately, once I renewed the plan to a cingular plan text messages received were suddenly charged for. Now that Cingular is AT&T again, I see no plans to bring back free text message receiving.
  • by RuBLed (995686) on Monday November 26, 2007 @02:32AM (#21475821)

    For peculiar business reasons, Americans n Canadians hv historically paid 2 receive txt messages (although much of Canada has shifted away from this). This creates a stilted social dynamic whereby a friend forces u 2 pay $.10 (o use up a precious token msg in yr plan) simply by deciding 2 send u something. You hv n choice. There's n blocking, n opt-out. Direct 2 jail, do not pass Go, do not collect $200. Needless 2 say, this alters d culture of txtin. From d getgo, Americans hv bn vri cautious about txtin. To b on d safe side, many Americans did not add txtin 2 their plan so sending a txt msg was often futile cuz it was never clear if a txt msg would b received by d fone in question o just disappear into d ether. Slowly, mob users figured out who had SMS n who didn't, but they were still super cautious about sending messages. It just felt rude, o wrong, o risky. Teens, of course, never had this filter. They were perfectly happy 2 txt. So much so that their parents refused 2 get them plans that supported it cuz, not surprisingly, there were all sorts of horror stories about teens who had texted up $700 fone bills. Sure enough, every family that I spoke w told me their version of d horror story n. In d U.S., we don't hv pay-as-u-go so going ova minutes o texts just gets added 2 yr monthly bill. If u're not careful, that bill cn get mighty costly. Unable 2 declare a max cost upfront, parents hv bn tremendously wary of teen txtin simply for economic costs (although d occasional predator o cheating-in-school scare story does surface). Slowly, things hv turned around, primarily w d introduction of cheap all-u-cn-eat txt messaging plans (n those that r so ridiculously high that it's hard 2 go ova). Once d barrier 2 participation s dropped, sending n receiving txt messages switches from bn potentially traumatic 2 outright fun. What a difference those plans make in user practice. The brick leash suddenly turns into an extension of d thumb for negotiating full-time intimate communities. I'm fascinated by how U.S. teens build intricate models of which f? r available via mob n which aren't. Teens know who s on wot plan, who cn b called after 7PM, who cn b called after 9PM, who cn receive texts, who s ova their txtin for d month, etc. It's part of their mental model of their social network n knowing this s a core exchange of friendship. Psychologically, all-u-cn-eat plans change everything. Rather than having 2 mentally calculate d number of texts sent n received (cuz d phones rarely do it for u n d carriers like 2 make that info obscure), a floodgate of opportunities s suddenly opened. The weights r lifted n freedom reigns. The result? Zero 2 a thousand txt messages in under a month! Those on all-u-cn-eat plans go hog wild. Every mundane thought s transmitted n d phones go buzz buzz buzz. Those w restrictive plans r treated w caution, left out of d fluid communication flow n brought in for more practical o content-filled purposes (o by sig others who ignore these norms n face d ire of parents). All-u-cn-eat plans r still relatively rare in Europe. For that matter, plans r relatively rare (while pay-as-u-go options were introduced in d U.S. relatively l8 n r not nearly as common as monthly plans). When a European youth runs out of texts n cn't afford 2 top up, they simply don't txt. But they cn still receive texts w/o cost so they aren't actually kept out of d loop; they just hv 2 call 2 respond if they still hv minutes o borrow a friend's fone. What u c in Europe s a muffled fluidity of communication, comfortable but not excessive. As d U.S. goes from 0 2 all-u-cn-eat in one foul swoop, American txtin culture s beginning 2 look quite different than wot exists in Europe. Whenever I walk into a T-Mobile n ask who goes ova their $10/1000 txt msg plan, d answer s uniform: "every teenager." Rather than averaging a relatively conservative number of texts per month (like 200), gluttonous teen America s already on route 2 thousands of texts per month. They txt like they IM, a practice mastered in middle school. Rather th

    • by Briareos (21163)
      tl; dr.
  • by Entropius (188861) on Monday November 26, 2007 @02:42AM (#21475861)
    A SMS message contains about a hundred bytes of non-time-critical data, which is a pittance compared to a tenth of a second of audio (which is time-critical, at least unless you ask T-Mobile).

    SMS's put virtually no load at all on the network infrastructure. Surely some carrier could attract business with free unlimited messages, and it wouldn't cost them a thing.
    • by Cyberax (705495) on Monday November 26, 2007 @03:13AM (#21475977)
      Actually, no.

      SMS messages use GSM control channels, not the main voice/data channels. Even worse, SMS messages compete for bandwidth with the other service messages (like 'make a call'). So too many SMS messages can easily crash operator's networks.
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward
        ISTR that initially in the UK, text messages were offered completely free and unlimited.
        Then someone tried running slip over text for a free wireless connection between two machines...
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by xpiotr (521809)
        It depends on the implementation.
        There is no Quality of Service connected to sending SMS,
        so if there is a flood of SMS coming,
        the operator normally caches them and send them at a conveniant time.
        Or just throw them, since the is no QoS connected.

        A little like when the postman gets tired of carrying your letters and throws some of them.

        • by Cyberax (705495)
          In any case, SMS messages are significant burden for operators. So operators naturally want to limit the flow of messages.

          At least because nobody would be using SMS if operators were throwing 90% of messages or delaying them for a few days.
          • by Entropius (188861)
            How are SMS messages a significant burden?

            It's an absolutely trivial amount of data compared to a phone call.

            If a one-off transmission at low priority of a few hundred bytes is a significant burden, then it's implemented wrongly.
      • I don't know what that sounds like to you, but it sounds like a great idea to me!
      • by Sloppy (14984)

        Ah, so the implementation is brain-damaged.

        Yet another reason to get away from the legacy phone systems. Just give us a packet-switched network, and we'll come up with apps that don't suck. Text should just be PGPed Jabber, QOSed to reflect its tolerance for high latency.

    • by Bent Mind (853241)

      I never have understood paying for text messaging.

      In my mind, I've been "Texting" for free since the early 90's, in the form of Instant Messaging. You could say since the early 80's if you count chat. I don't understand Cell Phone economics. Offer a service on the Internet, and consumers demand it for free. Offer a service on a cell phone, and consumers will pay you pennies a micro-second. To really sweeten the deal, most cell phones only offer a 12-key sub-micro keyboard that almost requires a toothpick

      • by deniable (76198)
        Your alternative requires you to be in a fixed location, unless your using a mobile phone as a modem. In that case, the billing is far worse.
        • by Bent Mind (853241)

          Your alternative requires you to be in a fixed location
          Yes and no. I generally can't use WiFi while driving. I can't really imagine people texting while driving, though I hear that a lot do try to kill themselves in this manor. However, I rarely have a problem getting a connection once I'm at my destination. As a bonus, unless I'm at home, WiFi really is free.
          • I can't really imagine people texting while driving, though I hear that a lot do try to kill themselves in this manor.

            Many parts of Europe are different from the US in that most people use public transit. You also have to consider that, in a car containing more than one person, not everyone is driving.

            Those facts make messaging while being in transit a whole lot more appealing and a lot less dangerous.
          • by Buran (150348)
            "In this manor"?

            It was Col. Mustard, with the cell phone, in the parlor.
          • by Tim Browse (9263)

            Heh. That is slightly amusing - are you American? It was the assumption that if you're not at home/in the office, you must be in a car that gave it away. In the UK, at least, people don't text while driving (although they do talk, even though it's illegal now). But people will text when at home, work, in a cafe, in a shop, on the street, on a bus, in a taxi, on a train, etc.

            I guess it's just a cultural thing - the US seems not to use text much (although that's changing with various new charge plans).

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      No load? Please do visit a european country on new years eve, basically all service is out between 23.30-01.00 Just because of the "no load" sms.
      • No load? Please do visit a european country on new years eve, basically all service is out between 23.30-01.00 Just because of the "no load" sms.

        I would be very surprised if it was out because of texting alone. Just two seconds of thinking tells you that a plain text message, usually less then 255 characters is a much smaller payload then any voice conversation. If it is the SMS however, its not the payload of the messages that is hurting the system its the constant hammering of the tower by very small
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by lazy_playboy (236084)
          Believe it. At 00:00 01/01, in Europe everyone texts everyone and the resulting 2 hour mobile outage is a right pain in the arse.
          As many others have said, SMS uses the control channel which has much less bandwidth and chokes very easily, and also affects voice call functions, even if there's plently of bandwidth free on the voice channel.

          SMS wasn't designed for the daily usage that we're seeing today - it was more of a 'hmmm, we'll add this function in as an after thought, but no one's really gonna use it m
    • by SeaFox (739806)

      SMS's put virtually no load at all on the network infrastructure. Surely some carrier could attract business with free unlimited messages, and it wouldn't cost them a thing.
      .Logic_Error

      With unlimited texting, there's much less incentive to call someone and speak to them, hence why do I need a 1000 min cellphone plan then, the much cheaper 250 minute one would be fine.
    • by stivi (534158)

      SMS's put virtually no load at all on the network infrastructure
      For the most of the year you are right, however a mobile phone operator will not agree with you on 24th-25th of December and on the New Year... sometimes the load leads to temporary DOS.
    • by raynet (51803)
      One part of the cost comes from SMS gateways which happen to be (atleast some years back when I played with them) rather expensive. The license cost per year was outrageus and was based on how many messages per second you wanted to be able to deliver.
  • by gowen (141411)
    Internet Sociologist? That's not a real job.
  • ...is a frickin marketing genius. He/she's convinced telecom customers to actually pay money to use much, much less of the bandwidth that they're already paying for.
    • by MonoSynth (323007)
      As far as I know, sms is just an accidental feature. A simple way for the provider to inform their customers, but it became popular when people discovered that they could send messages to each other too. In the beginning, sms was free here in the Netherlands (afaik).
    • I use text messaging all the time. There are some instances where sending a text message is better than calling. If you are in a noisy place, talking to more than one person at a time, short messages, things that need to be remembered, etc.
  • free in europe (Score:2, Interesting)

    by nerdyalien (1182659)
    I have a friend in prague. Instead of texting from my phone, I just go to the VODAFONE web site, where I can send, pretty much e-mail long text messages for no charge at all. This is cool... virtually.. you don't have to bother about credit limits, if you run out, you can go online and send SMS in an emergency. I also find it ridiculous to charge all the incoming stuff. Come on... its like early days in Stamp Postage, where receiver should pay the stamp charges... which discouraged people and made it a key
    • the same is ture in the US. your providor will typically provide a WWW gate where you can send SMS's. sometimes you can even email sms. In the uk, websites such as adsar.co.uk and cbfsms.com prevail however, o2.co.uk provides user 10 free texts/month
  • The cellular companies have been ripping people off for years, good riddance to the lot of them when public wireless access and SIP servers are prevalent enough for everyone to use IP rather than cellular.

    And as for my mobile phone, I rarely text on it as it's a tool for people to get hold of me if they have a good reason to or vice versa - it is NOT a device that props of any lack of self esteem on my part because of being so terrified of missing out on anything my friends or family are doing that I have

  • Europe is vastly different from the US. I noticed that when I went to the US for an extended time and had to get a cellphone.

    First of all, the idea of paying to receive anything is completely alien here. There is simply no way you could even sell that here. People would fear that their friends start adding to their bills. Not to mention that people here are already afraid of being ripped off by someone abusing the phone system (you'd be surprised how many ask in various boards what they should do when getti
    • by BeeRockxs (782462)
      There has never been a time of unlimited and free local calls. Actually what most people are used to from their land lines which made it into the cell market is a monthly basic provider fee and paying by the minute (or by the text message sent). Most plans work that way. At least in Germany, that's rapidly changing. Nowadays, almost every new contract has free landline calling in all of Germany for a flat fee, and only mobile is pay-per-minute.

  • Whenever any of my european friends hears americans pay for incoming SMS or calls, they just open their eyes wide in amazement. "Huh? That's retarded. So I send you 100 SMS using a WWW gateway and you have to pay for them?"

    Yeah. WWW gateways where you can send SMS for free. Actually getting an EXTRA CREDIT for RECEIVING calls - 2 minutes of incoming call gives you 1 minute of outgoung call extra in some plans. When your prepaid card runs out of credit, you can receive calls and SMS for a year without paying
  • by jholster (1155609) on Monday November 26, 2007 @05:39AM (#21476601)

    More and more phones are data-enabled, but only the techno-elite are going to add such ridiculously costly plans. (And what on earth can you do with only 4MB?) It's pretty clear that the carriers do not actually want you to use data. The story is even scarier in Europe with no unlimited options.
    Not true. I pay 10 eur per month for unlimited 384 kbps 3G data in Finland. Even unlimited 2 Mbps costs no more than ~30 eur per month. Pretty cheap I think, and this is common price level in Finland.
    • by delt0r (999393)
      You forget on /. Europe is a country. Well it seems that way, people in the US of A seem to forget that we are a lot of very very different countries.

      Back OT:
      Unfortunately it is true for Austria. However contracts are so cheap and even prepay is really cheap anyway. 20Eu gets me by for 2+months and I'm calling/txting all the time.

    • Well, mr. "I live next to the Nokia factory and my stuff is cheap"! In Greece it's like 30 eur for 300 MB and then it's some part of your soul per extra MB. If you aren't signed up for that plan, it's 10 eur/MB, I think. Everyone is like "data? what?" Even if you know how to do it, it's very expensive. Whenever I access the internet from my mobile I pray "oh please don't let that email have an attachment, please please".

      So yeah, you're the happy exception, I think :(
    • by AncientPC (951874)
      Unlimited data and text (500min anytime, nights start at 7) with Sprint starting for $30 / month:
      http://www.sprint.com/sero [sprint.com]
      http://www.fatwallet.com/t/18/680568/ [fatwallet.com]
  • US Cellular? (Score:2, Informative)

    by 5of0 (935391)
    I don't know about the rest of the providers, but my US provider (US Cellular) has free incoming everything - texts, phone calls, picture messages - by default on all its plans. And unlimited outgoing texting is $15 a month (picture messaging is something extra). I guess they're the odd ones out?
  • What you see in Europe is a muffled fluidity of communication, comfortable but not excessive.


    Oh, how convenient for them that even their shortcomings make them superior.
  • ... at least, all the UK ones do.

    Since the owners of the UK networks (Vodafone, o2, three, Orange, T-mobile) run networks in most other European countries.... I'd be very surprised if there weren't similar plans in the rest of the EU to as in the UK

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