Is calling cheaper than text messaging?
Posted Tuesday, February 1 2011 at 00:00
Ms Sylvia Bingi, 20, a first year University student at Makerere University reaches for a mobile from her handbag then sends a text message.
Not long after, her phone vibrates probably a reply has come in. She reads the reply and begins typing again.
This goes on for a couple of times.
She then explains to me that she was having a text message conversation with a friend using the little airtime she had.
To her and her friend, text messaging is the best way to minimise mobile phone costs but still effectively communicate with colleagues. To them, it looks like sending a text is cheaper than making a phone call.
This is a popular belief especially among the youths who are said to talk less on the phone but send out many text messages.
However, Ms Bingi and other Ugandans who choose text messaging over voice transmission may not be saving as much as they think.
Perharps that was true a year ago when making a phone call was still expensive averaging at about Shs300 per minute.
According to Uganda Communications Commission, voice traffic grew from 1.4 billion minutes in 2008 to 1.6 billion minutes by the end of September 2009.
Calls within various networks increased from 1.1 billion minutes to 1.3 billion minutes due to lower call rates within the networks during the period.
Calls to other networks dropped from 270 million minutes to 218 million during the period.
SMS traffic, however, dropped from 190 million SMS in 2008 to 131 million in September 2009.
The decreasing SMS traffic, according to UCC, was a result of the falling voice charges.
But the 2009 drop in voice calls was mainly on-network as players tried to ring face subscribers within the network.
However, a major price drop in the local mobile tariffs became more evident last September when Warid Telecom slashed its call rates to Shs5 within and off-network forcing other players including: Uganda Telecom, Orange, Airtel and MTN to cut their with-in and off-network to Shs3 per second, a rate that Warid also adapted to later.
This accounted for over 60 per cent price drop from a market average of Shs300.
SMS charges within and to other networks, on the other hand, remained high.