Apple iMessage could hurt mobile carriers

When Apple launches iMessage, a free alternative to traditional text messaging, it could have a damaging impact on mobile carriers.

The carriers still charge outrageous fees for texting – as much as 20 cents per message. Of course, anyone who texts regularly most likely has an unlimited texting plan for about $20 per month.

But that $20 is not insignificant when added to all the other line-item charges customers have to deal with these days, and many would prefer to scrap that fee altogether.

After all, there have been alternatives to texting since the last century. Phones with a data plan are able to send instant messages through Google Talk, Skype, AOL Instant Messenger, Windows Live Messenger, and others.

And not to be forgotten, it’s simple to send and received e-mails from pretty much any phone these days.

However, texting remains the only real way to send messages to people through a phone number rather than a sceen name or e-mail address, and they can be sent and received without mobile data.

Apple’s iMessage platform, expected to be revealed this week, cannot offer those amenities, but it will allow users to send messages over Wi-Fi and mobile data networks, with an aesthetic that looks like texting on an iPhone, and with technology that can send the messages instantly.

But for a company like Verizon, which gets $7 billion a year in revenue from texting fees, it could be a real killer.

So in the end, it could mean higher calling plan prices and charges for mobile data, but clearly the idea of old-school texting is starting to look out of date.