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BBM, iMessage and others lost mobile networks £8.8bn

Mobile network operators have lost an estimated £8.8bn thanks to free messaging apps.

Mobile network operators lost an estimated £8.8bn last year thanks to free messaging apps, a report suggests.

The research comes courtesy of Ovum, which reckons apps like Apple's iMessage, BlackBerry Messenger, Facebook chat or Samsung's ChatON have left the network industry, which is used to raking in cash from text messages, $13.9bn (about £8.8bn) poorer.

Non-SMS messaging apps use a mobile's data connection to send messages for free, thanks to the infinite magic of modern mobile tech.

The report worked out the most popular social messaging apps globally, then estimated the amount of people with those apps who would be using them instead of sending SMS messages. This was used to estimate how much revenue networks could have made. I was told the research also took into account that some people would be using more than one messaging app.

The BBC says however, that the research doesn't take into account the extra cash networks are raking in from charging people to use data on their phones.

One thing's for sure though -- if you and your buddies own smart phones, there's not much reason to send text messages anymore. And I'm not sure how network operators like Orange, Vodafone or O2 plan to account for a decline in text messaging.

One simple solution would be to crank up contract costs and making some extra cash that way. But obviously that wouldn't go down well with customers, who won't feel like paying more money each month.

The author of the research suggests that networks should be partnering with app developers and working with the companies that actually sell mobiles, as they'll be able to fill phones with pre-installed apps. Mobile broadband is also mooted as an alternative source of revenue.

Do you still send texts? Or have messaging apps taken over from old-timey SMS? Let me know your preferences in the comments below, or over on our Facebook wall.