Business model for Xboat Couriers in the Spinward Marches


Banded Mongoose
Hello Folks,
Elsewhere on a Facebook Traveller Group, someone brought up a question about how often Xboat couriers are sent and arrive throughout the various portions of the Spinward Marches - which in turn set my mind off on a tangent...

What would be the business model of the Xboat Courier?

Just as Freighters must impose a certain amount of fees for transporting goods within their hull (based on volume or displacement tonnage) so too would the Courier system have to impose a fee on their customers to transfer data. What is this fee? Hmmm. Don't know as I can ever recall reading just what it costs to send a single "email" or e-document some 20 parsecs away in all of the multiple decades that Traveller has been in existence. But it does give reason to wonder for some right?

RIIIGHHHHT!!!!! *teasing grin*

So, how would the Courier system charge its fees? A ship leaves one starport, Jumps to the next starport. Dumps the entirety of its data-banks via communications to either another Courier, or it dumps the intended messages for the current star system it is in for them to receive and deliver as necessary.

GURPS TRAVELLER has it such that a single "Xboat Communications Module" (which contains communications equipment as well as computer memory equipment etc) at what amounts to Traveller TL 15 - some 5 Petabytes of information per "module". Granted, each Module is some 26 spaces in size, but that's not the point. The point is, we have a working number as to how much information can be transported on a 100 dTon hull.

So, how bit are PDF files today? A single copy of Mongoose Traveller RPG second edition rules, takes up about 48 Megabytes of memory.

When I go online to convert megabytes to petabytes, this is what I get:

48 megabyte = 0.000000050331648 petabyte

Think about that for a second. We could send some 19.8 million such different books with a Petabyte of memory - all the same size as our beloved rules set for Mongoose Traveller 2nd edition.

One would imagine that the cost of sending a single short email might be as low as is possible as can be given Imperial Currency. Perhaps a DeciCredit? Centicredit?

A 90 minute movie will require roughly 1 Gigabyte of memory from start to finish. A Petabyte is 1,000 Terabytes, and a Terabyte is 1,000 Gigabytes. That is 1 Million movies could be released via the Xboat Courier system for 1 Petabyte of memory.

If the Imperial Scout Service were to be required to run the Xboat courier system without working in the red, all that would have to be done is simply charge on average, enough money to handle the following (at least in the Spinward Marches:

Note: A pairing is two worlds that have an Xboat route between them:

40 pairings with Jump-1 distance
34 pairings with jump-2 distance
30 pairings with jump-3 distance
17 pairings with jump-4 distance

At the time I did this analysis, there were 6 worlds within the Spinward Marches whose partner on the Xboat route were outside of the Spinward Marches proper. Of those listed above, some are Zhodani, some are Sword World, some are Darian World, and some are Imperial world Xboat routes.

Something to think about.

For those who like to tinker with their own Traveller Universe - imagine a single ship, built to Jump-6 specifications, tasked only with delivering timely news in a timely fashion. For instance, Xboat notifications that an individual starship has not paid its payments in a long while. At Jump 6, it wouldn't take long for the information to be disseminated, and rather cheaply at that.

Now all I have to do is figure out what the "market" or "traffic" value is for any given world that wants to send stuff via Xboats. ;)
Now all I have to do is figure out what the "market" or "traffic" value is for any given world that wants to send stuff via Xboats.

I think, that's the big point, too. So, take e. g. big corporations like GeDeCo or even bigger ones that need to send important data on financial transactions, research, personnel, finnished projects etc. across the Imperium and even beyond. Also note, that data gets bigger with every TL and even within a TL. That's why I strongly advise against using units like petabytes etc. for Traveller (or any scifi setting). It just gets ridiculous really fast: as of today the internet grows around 70 terabytes per second. The current size of the internet, as of me typing, is 16,600,617 petabytes (

Certainly, not all of this needs to be sent around constantly, but cloud-based storage is an important part of our integrated digital economy. I imagine, Traveller megacorporations would want to know as much as possible about their local divisions, same as today's corporations do. So, maybe company policy says, you have to mirror your Marduk GeDeCo servers once per week completely via X-Boat to the company's subsector archive, which will mirror data once per month completely to the sector server. A yearly data dump of GeDeCo to the headquarters happens, too, but in this cases data mass (quite literally) is so huge, that this happens via a dedicated container ship chartered purposely from a GeDeCo subsidiary for the annual occasion. Monthly subsector to sector transfers might still rely on Xboats, though, depending on the capacities of the Xboat service.

At the minimum one corporation alone would need huge weekly transfers for each of its local divisions. This is multiplied for every corporation, the armed forces etc. and in excess to private and commercial data transfers necessary.
Our interpretation of the ecks boat system will evolve with our understanding of our current economy and telecommunications systems.

Let's assume that the ecks boat system is underwritten by the Imperium as strategic infrastructure, that assists trade and helps maintain cohesion for the Imperium, by providing a cheap and reliable way for anyone in the Imperium to communicate with anyone else; you know, jMail.

Tweeting is more like jungle telegraph.

Junk mail is more likely to get filtered.

Information packages, if too large for the ecks boat databases, will get broken up and squeezed onto the next jump load.

The Rothschilds are likely to have their own private factor six courier network, allowing them to have faster access to events across the Imperium, and with that inside knowledge, use it to influence politics and financial markets, both local and interstellar.
It costs about kCr 100 per jump to operate an X-Boat:

Double that for tenders and we get kCr 200 per jump.

Divide that by a million messages, and each message would cost Cr 0.20.
Divide by a billion messages, and each message would cost Cr 0.0002.
Mail will take two two methods - electronic and physical. Traveller says electronic memory storage is virtually limitless. So electronic mail will expand mercilessly to take advantage of the space. Xboats will deliver the mail along the main routes, and non Xboats will deliver it everywhere else. Which is where the mail contracts come in.

Physical mail isn't talked about much, but someone is still going to send a physical letter, or a sweater, or whatever. Small packages will probably be like cr10 a paraec. A single dton will be able to easily cover the cr1000 costs.
Subsector small packet post is probably affordable.

Anything beyond that, either requires a dedicated courier service, or someone actually travelling near the addressee, who's either well compensated, or feels greatly obliged.