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Texting as you go
Texting as you go
Sending text messages sounds cheap, and it can be...if you have a bundled package plan.

But users who pay the average base fee of 20 cents per text on one of the nation's major wireless carriers are paying roughly $1,250 per megabyte.

By stark contrast, most wireless providers offer packages of varying sizes and prices up to unlimited texting for about $20 per month. Somewhat surprisingly, only 51%, or 118 million, of the nation's 232 million mobile phone subscribers send text messages through a bundled plan. Subsequently, the remaining 49% are either not texting or paying an exorbitant amount of extra money.

According to a separate study by Nielsen, 59% of wireless subscribers, or 138 million, regularly send text messages every month. That means about 20 million Americans are paying 20 cents per text.

Spokesmen for Verizon, T-Mobile and AT&T all argue that the average price per text per subscriber has fallen some 70% over the past two years, even as base fares have doubled. That's largely due to the package deals, which have brought the price per text down to about a penny, according to the companies. A Sprint spokeswoman did not return requests for comment.

"There are a number of things that are bizarre about the mobile industry, and the fact that people continue to text for 20 cents is one of them," said Andy Castonguay, director of mobile and access devices research at Yankee Group. "For better or for worse, the operators haven't traditionally done a good job of easing people into more realistic payment plans based on their usage."

Last updated June 18 2009: 2:19 PM ET
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