updated 10/13/2006 1:31:42 PM ET 2006-10-13T17:31:42

Sprint Nextel Corp. will now charge 15 cents per message — a 5 cent increase — for using text messaging without a monthly package.

There was no change in prices for subscription texting plans — $5 for a monthly allowance of 300 messages, $10 for 1,000 and $15 for unlimited usage. Going over those limits in any month will still cost 10 cents a message sent or received.

Cingular Wireless, Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile USA each charge 10 cents per message sent or received without a texting plan.

Text messages, hugely popular overseas and rapidly catching on in the United States, are similar to e-mail except that they're sent to and from cell phone numbers rather than e-mail addresses. Most users type out messages by multi-tapping on a phone's number pad to choose letters, though many mobile devices such as the BlackBerry and Treo feature a full-blown mini-keyboard.

Sprint Nextel doesn't disclose how many of its 41.5 million subscribers use text messaging without a monthly plan, so it was unclear how many would be affected by the rate increase.

Cingular Wireless LLC is jointly owned by AT&T Inc. and BellSouth Corp. Verizon Wireless is a joint venture between Verizon Communications Inc. and Vodafone Group PLC. T-Mobile is the U.S. subsidiary of Germany's Deutsche Telekom AG.

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