Verizon Wireless began the service Monday morning, according to spokesman Jim Gerace. With the announcement, Verizon Wireless becomes the fifth major carrier to make such a service available.
Inter-carrier service lets customers send a text message--a 160-character e-mail exchanged between cell phones--to any cell phone user regardless of the receiver's carrier. Previously, Verizon Wireless customers could send and receive text messages only to and from Verizon Wireless customers.
The first carriers to announce interoperable text messaging were AT&T Wireless, which launched the service in January, followed by Cingular Wireless, which announced in February that it would offer the service nationwide. Voicestream Wirelessthe availability of its service several weeks ago.
Sprint also launched its inter-carrier wireless e-mail service Monday. It announced its intentions to do so last month. The technology for the service is provided by MobileSpring, a provider of wireless messaging technology, and Illuminet, a subsidiary of VeriSign.
Nextel Communications is the sole "top six" carrier that has yet to announce inter-carrier messaging.
Text messaging has not been used as much in the United States as it has overseas, where an estimated 30 billion messages are exchanged every month in parts of Europe and Asia. Only about 1.5 billion messages will be exchanged in the United States this year, according to industry forecasts.
Carriers have mostly blamed the lack of any interoperability between U.S. carriers for the tepid interest in text messaging.
Monday's announcement means these "technological" hurdles have been overcome, IDC analyst Scott Ellison said.
"Before, it was like saying you can only call someone long distance who has a Verizon service," Ellison said. "There are no technical excuses left."
He said success now depends on how well carriers market the new services, which are just one of many ways in which wireless carriersto find new sources of revenue, primarily to offset the cost of new cell phone networks--projects that have run into the billions of dollars.
"We've seen Cingular do a little marketing, now AT&T Wireless," Ellison said.