Science & Technology in Action

13th Edition

Comparing the cost of communications

Commission for Communications Regulations

It is sometimes difficult to choose the most economical mobile offer. There are many variables such as number of phone minutes, number of texts, data allowance, roaming etc. This is where the ComReg Price Compare online calculator and Android app really help.

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The full lessons along with a supporting toolkit are available in three different formats, A4, A3 and as a Powerpoint deck.

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Contains the full lesson along with a supporting toolkit, including teachers’ notes.

Lesson excerpt

Smartphone ownership

In 2014 a survey of Irish 15 to 35 year olds indicated that 96% of them owned a smart phone. The percentage who opted for pre-pay fell with age: teenagers: 88%; early twenties: 64%; late twenties: 31%; and early 30s: 16%. (Thinkhouse 2014). The fact that the survey was conducted online may have biased the results. Although smartphones can be very expensive people can get them at a fraction of the full cost from various telephone service providers if they agree to monthly payments for 12 to 24 months. Some providers offer free smartphones to those who accept various bill-pay deals. Reduced rates for the fi rst six months can make a deal look more attractive. For example, compare these two 24-month deals: a) €40 per month for the fi rst six months and then €50 per month a) €25 per month for the fi rst six months and then €75 per month The second one might look more attractive at first but a simple calculation will show that it is more expensive. a) €40 x 6 + €50 x 18 = €240 + €900 = €1140 a) €25 x 6 + €75 x 18 = €150 + €1350 = €1500 This is just a simple example. In reality there are many other variables such as number of phone minutes, number of texts, data allowance, roaming etc. The most suitable option for the individual is then less obvious. This is where the ComReg Price Compare online calculator and Android app really help in finding the best value.

ComReg Price Compare

The online calculator ( can be used to compare the price of the following services: • Broadband • Home phone • Mobile phone • Combined • Directory enquiries. ‘ Combined’ refers to bundled services. The calculator is easy to use. For example, if you select ‘Mobile phone’, a page appears on which you fill in your requirements or expected usage. The options include: • pre-pay or bill pay • how you use your phone (data, text, voice etc.) • handset model/type. The calculator presents a list of service providers according to your preference in order of average cost, upfront cost or total cost. (See The ComReg Compare app is now available for Android mobile phones. It may be downloaded from:

True or False?

  1. The ComReg app is just for comparing mobile phone charges. false
  2. In 1970 half the Irish population had home phones. false
  3. The electric telegraph was invented in 1846. true
  4. In 1866 a transatlantic cable was laid between Valentia Island and Newfoundland. true
  5. In 1888 Hertz demonstrated the transmission of radio waves. true
  6. Another ‘generation’ of mobile phones appears about every 10 years. true
  7. First generation (1G) mobile phone calls were digitally encrypted. false
  8. 2G mobile phones could send text messages and calls were digitally encrypted. true
  9. 3G mobile phones had VoIP capability. false
  10. Fast communication is possible with optical fibres. true

Glossary of terms

first generation (mobile devices)
abbreviation for smartphone applications
reduction in energy or amplitude
regular (monthly) fixed payment
data allowance
the amount of data specified in the mobile 'bundle'
Electric telegraph
an early method of sending text messages as coded electrical signals
Electromagnetic wave
radiation, which travels at the speed of light, consisting of electric and magnetic oscillations at right angles to each other; the amount of energy it carries is directly proportional to its frequency (and so is inversely proportional to its wavelength)
a process of making information unreadable
prevent a message getting to its intended destination
IP telephony
a facility by which voice telephone call can be made over the Internet (VoIP)
kilobits per second
moveable; can be moved easily
Morse code
a code used for transmitting messages in which letters of the alphabet and numbers are represented by various sequences of dots and dashes; devised by Samuel Morse
optical fibres
typically very pure glass fibres that transmit light pulses (coded data) with minimal loss. The principle of operation is called 'total internal reflection'.
can be carried
payment for a particular mobile bundle in advance; also called 'pay as you go'
an electronic device that picks up a signal and retransmits it
the ability to use a mobile phone or similar device in another country
a device that send out radio signals
voice over internet protocol; a system that facilitates telephone communication using the Internet