Serpent Addiction

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The high price of low-bandwidth data

The current situation with mobile phone communications is crazy. In the U.S., it's relatively easy to send a short text message (SMS) to someone's cell phone via email, e.g.:

  • T-Mobile:
  • Cingular:
  • Sprint:
  • Verizon:
  • Nextel:

Apparently in Europe the carriers make sms-to-email more difficult.

However in Euroland, they make it relatively easy to send outbound SMS messages from your cell phone to internet email accounts. In the U.S., I couldn't find a single provider for sms-to-email delivery. T-Mobile will allow me to send email (not SMS) to the internet, but I must first setup a POP server. Since all I want is to send simple outbound messages via Python code, this seems like overkill. I don't want or need inbound email.

So my current round-trip scenario:

  • server-to-phone: send automated email to
  • phone-to-server: send sms via connectotel

Connectotel is an free offshore sms-to-email gateway service. Free is a bit of a misnomer, however, as each overseas message costs me $0.15. Even domestic messages cost $0.05 each.

There's something quite screwy in that my voicemail, which consumes orders of magnitude more transmission and storage, is free. I could easily spend over $50/month in SMS fees for less than 12K of data.

Most of the time this is a non-issue since I'll be using my hacked bluetooth server for local data communications.


  • When I had Verizon (a couple years ago) it was relatively easy (at least from what I remember) to send short messages to email addresses (sms-to-email). Seems like all I needed to do was send it to an email address instead of a phone number. However, it seems that a short one was necessary as it seems that it didn't allow input of destinations longer than around 20-25 chars.

    I now have Cingular and can still send txt messages to email, although now I have to manually change my phone's sms settings to allow sending emails. This was pre-configured, but hidden away in my phone's sms settings and was (from what I recall) undocumented in the info received from Cingular.

    By Blogger Jon, at 12:13 PM  

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