Dr Nigel Bannister is correct about SMS costs. Now, what about the exploitation by telcos?
Dr Nigel Bannister is correct to say that SMS costs more than using Hubble Space Telescope!
I reckon his calculations are ballpark as they echo my own similar experience when as far back as 1999 I did a rough comparison between the costs of local SMS messages and that of NASA receiving messages from its Voyager spacecraft billions of kilometers away.
My calculations show that on a byte-for-byte basis it cost kids several orders of magnitude more money to send [to text] a single character across a schoolroom than it does for NASA to receive the same message from its Voyager spacecraft as they approach the heliosheath--that boundary where edge of the solar system gives way to deep space some fourteen billion kilometers from earth.
The SMS service was originally devised as a quick and dirty maintenance channel for field use by technical staff to adjust and maintain mobile telephone networks--not for general use by subscribers. Well, that was until the telcos realised they were sitting on a goldmine and they could ACTUALLY sell the SMS service to subscribers. Moreover, this twee, almost-unacceptable, almost-unusable and awkward communications system with its strange and kluged way of keying in messages, was extremely easy to sell to a remarkably gullible and unquestioning public who lapped SMS up no matter what outrageous and extortionate price the telcos charged. For the telcos, SMS was the telecommunications equivalent of heroin, the public, world wide, became addicted overnight.
Had SMS been initially planned as a consumer service then it would have been much more extensive than it now is. The telcos just couldn't believe their luck: for almost negligible establishment costs they've made billions. And, on a dollar-for-effort basis, they've made even more money than Bill Gates and Microsoft.
Moreover, the world's telcos are all very aware of the SMS goldmine they're sitting on. Thus, they're forever engaged in seemingly competitive SMS price wars which, in reality, just oscillate or nibble around an artificial and outrageously high price. No telco is wiling to enter into true price completion in the SMS arena, and no telco wants the secret SMS oligopoly to be exposed. The stakes are enormous.
The tragedy of SMS is that governments, regulators and consumer advocates let these miserable telecommunications carpetbaggers get away with such huge exploitation, it was on such a grand scale. In the broader sense, SMS pricing--which ought to have been included in the base subscriber price with no charge for messages (as the bandwidth is so negligible)--can be seen as another consumer casualty in the worldwide headlong rush that was telecommunications deregulation.
Matters, too, were made worse when governments also divested themselves of their telecommunications regulators and engineers, as governments no longer had easy access to professional and independent technical advice (they would have picked up the SMS scam then referred it on for the drafting of appropriate lemon laws and consumer protection legislation).
SMS and its pricing is truly an amazing phenomena. One day when we eventually realise the huge extent to which the consumer has been deceived and conned over SMS, it will go down in history as a quintessential example of what happens when the synergies of corporate greed, marketing propaganda and deception, consumer gullibility and the new and strange addiction of SMS messaging come together. It's what happens when all involved are blinded and mesmerised by technology's new and pretty baubles bangles and beads. With SMS, it is as if the Pied Piper had really come this time.
What is urgently needed now is to expose this SMS pricing sham once and for all. I call on whistleblowers, insiders and those of us who still posses a modicum of rationality and who understand the issues, to leak and expose true and quantifiable figures (not guesstimates) about SMS installation and running costs and the extent to which the public has been deceived and extorted over the years. This information can then be used to force regulators and legislators to act.
 At the time, my reason for the calculation was in response to my then unit manager who suggested we use SMS to replace regular telephone conversations. Responding I'd said that SMS is, at best, a clumsy, slow and an inefficient means of communication but he remained insistent but he then dropped the idea when the costs of SMS were compared to that of Voyager's communications.)