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AT&T texting plan: $20, not $10, for new customers

AT&T is getting rid of its $10-a-month text messaging plan for new customers, or those current customers wanting to sign up for a text messaging plan, effective this Sunday, and going to a $20-a-month plan.

The $10-a-month plan, which remains in place for customers who already have the plan, lets them send up to 1,000 text messages. The $20-a-month plan covers "unlimited" text messaging.

Those who don't want to pay $20 for a messaging plan do have other options, although they're pricy, depending on how much you text: There's the per-text charge of — gulp — 20 cents per message, and — double gulp — 30 cents for individual photo and video messages.

Here's the official statement and explanation, from AT&T spokesman, Mark A. Siegel, gave

Starting Aug. 21, we’re streamlining our text messaging plans for new customers and will offer an unlimited plan for individuals for $20 per month and an unlimited plan for families of up to five lines for $30 per month.

The vast majority of our messaging customers prefer unlimited plans and with text messaging growth stronger than ever, that number continues to climb among new customers. Existing customers don’t have to change any messaging plan they have today, even when changing handsets.

Customers who have an "unlimited messaging plan and a qualifying voice plan can also receive unlimited mobile to mobile calling, which means they can call any wireless number, on any wireless network, without those minutes being deducted from their monthly plan," said another AT&T spokesman.

It's a far cry from AT&T's previous and economical $5-a-month plan for 250 text messages, which was done away with last January. leaving the $10-a-month for 1,000 text messages plan as its cheapest.

All cellular carriers face text-message business challenges from Facebook, with its new Messenger program, and Apple, with iMessage service, due to be released as part of the iOS 5 update this fall. Messenger lets Android and iPhone users send instant messages to individuals and to groups from within Facebook.

With iMessage, wrote's Rosa Golijan, when it was unveiled last June, "Apple has created a new messaging service that'll work between iOS users. You'll be able to send text, photos, videos, contacts, and group messages between the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch. The feature basically sounds a lot like BlackBerry Messenger and will show delivery receipts, read receipts, and typing indicators. Messages will be pushed to all your devices — and encrypted. Of course the whole thing works over either Wi-Fi or 3G."

Bill Dudley, head of operator services at Sybase 365, a major text-message service provider for cell carriers, "estimates that iMessage could cannibalize as much as 12 percent of U.S. text messaging, but also potentially as little as 1 to 3 percent," wrote's Wilson Rothman recently.

Asked if the new Facebook and Apple services played a role in AT&T's decision to change its text message plan, Siegel said only this: "We made the new change as part of our ongoing process of reviewing our plans and offers."

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