UK internet service provider (ISP) Totalise has suspended its free online text messaging service following the move by mobile operators to charge for cross-network messages.
The company said it has temporarily withdrawn the service in light of the announcement that the four UK mobile operators are introducing reciprocal charges from next month.
As reported by vnunet.com earlier this month, the UK mobile operators are to charge each other a fee for every text message sent to a rival network. The interconnection charges are expected to be set at 3p for each cross-network text message.
Operators insist that the move will not lead to a rise in the cost of sending a text message as the charges will cancel each other out as messages are sent between operators.
However, there is concern that the charge will threaten the future of free online text messaging services. Earlier this month internet portal Lycos.co.uk said it may be forced to withdraw its free text messaging service because of the new charges.
SMSboy, another free online text messaging service, is currently assessing whether the interconnection charges will force it to end its offering. Shakil Khan, founder of the company, said earlier this month that the charges will "put a lot of people out of the market". He expects to make a decision within the next week.
Totalise, which has allowed users to send free text messages to any mobile phone since September, handled around 150,000 messages a day with over 50,000 unique users.
A spokesman for the ISP said: "The problem we face is that we need to work out how much it will cost us to continue to offer this service to our users. Otherwise, with traffic levels of around 200,000, the costs could become huge."
"We are not going to abandon our service but we are looking at new ways to offer it," added the spokesman. "We are looking at a number of options and until this is sorted out the service will be suspended."
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