Would you pay $1,250 per megabyte?

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Photo: Ken Banks, kiwanja.net

That’s exactly what you’re paying if you’re sending texts without a messaging plan: Text messages max out at a measly 160 bytes. At 20 cents per message, that’s costing you $1,250 per megabyte.

Yet only 51%, or 118 million, of the nation’s 232 million mobile phone subscribers send text messages through a bundled plan, according to wireless industry organization CTIA. That means the remaining 49% are either not texting or paying way more than they should for texts.

Not that those bundled plans are reasonable either: For instance, AT&T offers 1,000 texts for $10, which works out to a stunning $62.50 per megabyte.

Even unlimited plans are a ripoff. Let’s say you’re sending one text message every minute of every day of every month. That’s 44,640 texts per month. At “just” $20 per month, that still works out to $2.80 per megabyte.

By contrast, AT&T offers a data plan that gives you 200 megabytes of monthly Internet usage for $15 — just under 8 cents per megabyte.

No wonder the wireless industry makes 80 cents of profit on each dollar they make from texting, the Wall Street Journal reported today. Texting alone brought in $25 billion in revenue for American and Canadian telecoms last year.

Which is why cell phone users should welcome free apps like Apple’s new iMessage, Google Voice, BlackBerry Messenger and other third party tools that send texts and instant messages over carriers’ data networks rather than the cellular networks.

The wireless industry was shocked to learn about iMessage. Just like the bill shock wireless consumers have been feeling for more than a decade. -David

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