19 September 2008

Inquiring Minds

An Indian friend of mine asks, "Why is telecommunications so expensive in the States?" He says that cell phones and service are much less expensive in India and that the rest of the world wonders why we don't text message.

What's the answer?

28 comments:

aog said...

Because American are so rich no one cares enough to make a difference. And Americans don't text? That's not my experience.

Ali said...

Landlines were provided by an abysmal state monopoly for decades. All the competition took place in the cell market.

Communications infrastructure in the West is good enough that having a cell phone is optional.

Hey Skipper said...

Like AOG said, Americans text plenty.

I just can't figure out why anyone would bother. With the telephone well and truly invented, it is like someone saying, "hey, I have an idea: semaphore!"

As for the expense of cell service in the US, I just had the "pleasure" of shopping around for a new cell plan.

As it turns out, everything on offer was as nearly alike as "darnnit" and swearing. Four lines, 700 minutes -- of which we will use a tenth, but can't get any fewer despite that -- $90. We chose our plan on handsets: Two Motorola Razr V3s for $50 each, plus two slightly fancier Motorola offerings at no additional charge.

Contrary to AOG, I while not rich, I am certainly well enough off. Despite that, I was going for the least expensive suitable plan. That all six or so were essentially the same price suggests there is a real cost floor.

I think it is driven by population density. Outside a dozen or so metropolitan areas, the US is probably one of the least sparsely populated countries, particularly west of the Mississippi.

Area requires lots of cell towers, but there aren't very many subscribers per unit area.

aog said...

People text instead of calling for the same reason you send email instead of calling. If the message is short and precision is important (e.g., an address) then texting is a clearly better choice.

erp said...

What I like about email (I haven't texted yet) is that it avoids small talk and blather.

David said...

If you've ever called someone hoping to get their voice mail rather than them, then you can understand the attraction of texting.

Although I can't find up to date numbers, it appears that Americans text about half as much, per capita, than the rest of the world.

My Indian friend said that he once texted his wife when he would be home for dinner and Americans he was with thought that that was rude.

I like Ali's explanation that the US doesn't have the population density for cheap mobile plans.

Hey Skipper said...

I like Ali's explanation that the US doesn't have the population density for cheap mobile plans.

All due respect to Ali, but I thought that was my explanation ...

People text instead of calling for the same reason you send email instead of calling. If the message is short and precision is important (e.g., an address) then texting is a clearly better choice.

Granted. But I'll bet most texting is gossip by semaphore.

My family will not be texters. All the cellphone plans wanted either (IIRC) 25 cents per message above some minimal number, or a more expensive plan.

Considering, SFAIK, the network burden of a text message is indistinguishable from the same amount of voice data, my fun meter went directly into the red. I checked the "delete" box.

aog said...

erp;

There's also the asynchronousity. That is, if Skipper wants to text me the address of the restaurant at which we to meet, I don't have to read it the exact same time he sends it. That's a feature.

Skipper;

Make sure you can receive text messages. I have to say, I love being able to (for instance) sign up for text messages from the airline with any breaking news about my flight.

Hey Skipper said...

More on texting.

Class II airspace (outside radar contact, typically trans oceanic) air traffic control is increasingly conducted via CPDLC: controller to pilot data link communication.

In other words, voice comm over HF radio is being replaced by a context dependent form of texting.

Why? [The] message is short and precision is important.

erp said...

Hey guys, invite me to lunch and I'll learn how to text too.

David said...

Sorry, Skipper. I should have known that someone from Alaska made the population density comment. I hear that you have so few people up there that being governor is no different than being mayor of a small town.

Peter Burnet said...

AOG:

There's also the asynchronousity.

Now, that's the kind of big word I've grown to look forward to. Glad to see you're back in form.

Harry Eagar said...

A lot of people, I suspect, never used all the functions you could get with a Princess Phone. I know I never did.

No caller ID, no call waiting (definitely not!) etc.

For two month's cell phone charges, Skipper can get a lot of that stuff (what's at the local moviehouse?) plus all that good social and political and economic information that you'll never get via txtmsg.

How many people, outside Alaska, will ever need a GPS function?

Hey Skipper said...

How many people, outside Alaska, will ever need a GPS function?

My wife and daughter.

As is typical for Team Estrogen, they are directionally challenged. (I am awaiting the knock on the door from the NOW Emergency Attitude Readjustment Team, with their pastel truncheons, as I type.)

FWIW, I always subscribe to the local paper.

Harry Eagar said...

Just received this press release. I don't know what's behind it:

Beginning today, Verizon Wireless customers who want to enjoy the best customer experience in wireless, but don’t want to sign a one- or two-year customer agreement have a month-to-month option. The new Month-to-Month agreement is an extension of the company’s overall commitment to delivering its customers quality products and services over the nation’s most reliable wireless network, while providing the industry’s best customer service.
Verizon Wireless’ new Month-to-Month agreement gives customers the freedom to purchase new devices at full-retail price, or use their own CDMA devices without the commitment of a one- or two-year contract. Additionally customers can terminate their agreement at the end of any month without paying an Early Termination Fee.
The company’s Month-to-Month agreement is now available on all Nationwide Voice and Data plans for both new and current contract customers. Current contract customers must fulfill the terms of their current contract before moving to a Month-to-Month agreement.
Customers who want to sign up for a Verizon Wireless Month-to-Month plan can visit a Verizon Wireless Communications Store, go online at www.verizonwireless.com or call 1-800 2 JOIN IN.

Harry Eagar said...

I also meant to remark on this:

'Communications infrastructure in the West is good enough that having a cell phone is optional.'

So true. My mother-in-law in Houston hasn't had electricity since Ike went by more than a week ago, but she has had land phone service right through.

If, like so many young folks, including all my children, she'd only had cell service, she wouldn't have any phone at all.

(My sister-in-law, who lives next door, has a generator, but since the gasoline ran out, they cannot get any more. Pumps don't work.)

erp said...

As is typical for Team Estrogen, they are directionally challenged.

For Shame!

David said...

Forget phone service in the states: Why are donuts so expensive in the UK? Krispy Kreme in Paddington Station charges 1.20 English Pounds (more or less $2.40) per donut.

Good lord!

No wonder they don't have enough money for expensive cell phone plans.

Brit said...

I was likewise shocked at the absurdly low cost of junk food in the States.

I still can't get my head around Cici's all-you-can eat pizza for about four quid.

Ali said...

The price of food in Paddington station is high because of the premium rents retailers have to pay. Krispy Kreme sell in a lot of Tesco supermarkets now and I imagine the price is a lot lower. Frankly, people would be a lot better off is sugary junk was taxed like cigarettes.

David said...

Ali: We have those high-priced spaces, too, but no one is charging $1.20 per donut, let alone $2.40. On the other hand, the coffee is cheaper here, mostly I suppose because "Americano" is so bad. It's a little insulting that people think that's what we drink.

I'd be interested in what Harry pays for a donut, since Hawaii has the most expensive prices in the states.

Bret said...

What is a "quid"? Some kind of seafood?

erp said...

All you can eat pizza isn't worth four pence.

Ali said...

A quid is a £.

David, are you in the UK now? It would be nice to see you in the flesh.

David said...

Ali: I am. I'm in Oxford (or, as we Americans refer to it, south London) for a conference Wednesday and Thursday. Then I'm flying out of Heathrow Friday afternoon.

If I remember right, you're up north, or "north London." If you have a chance to make it down, that'd be great. I'm free Oxford Thursday afternoon/evening or even Friday morning in London, so long as I make it to Heathrow before noon.

Brit said...

Bret:

It's a sort of English buck.

Ali said...

I started a new job three weeks ago and it wouldn't give a good impression if I asked for time off during the week just yet.

Keep me posted on maac007@yahoo.com whenever you're due next over here.

Harry Eagar said...

I paid $3.75 for a cherry turnover yesterday morning at Vineyard Bakery. Baked by a genuine French chef from France.

A bit of sticker shock. I hadn't been there for a while and I think the price was around $2.50 last year.

Safeway's lousy donuts are 79 cents, I think. We have a Krispy Kreme but I don't know what they charge. I think donuts at a specialty bakery would run around $1.25, maybe more within one of the resorts.

If you are ever here, skip the donuts and get a cream puff at Komoda's Grocery. They are not really cream puffs. About $2. Famous. They usually sell out before 8 a.m.