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AOL, Cingular trade IMs

America Online strikes a deal with Cingular Wireless that lets AOL Instant Messenger customers exchange text messages with Cingular mobile phone subscribers.

America Online announced Monday that it would allow its AOL Instant Messenger customers to exchange text messages with Cingular Wireless mobile phone subscribers.

The service will let any AIM user send a text message to a Cingular Wireless phone number. AOL members and AIM users who are also Cingular customers can forward incoming IM messages to their phones when away from their PCs.

By the end of the year, the companies also plan to integrate AIM's "buddy list" interface, which displays one's IM contacts, into Cingular phones.

The deal is the latest attempt by both companies to connect IM users on PCs with text messaging users on cell phones. In July, AOL struck a similar deal with Verizon Wireless, while Cingular inked a similar agreement with Yahoo's IM service.

Web and wireless companies are beginning to take a harder look at wireless text messaging, which has taken off in markets such as Asia and Europe, where cell phones outnumber PCs. However, selling text messaging in the United States may be more difficult because cell phone providers are charging consumers for the feature.

Cingular charges $2.99 a month for 100 messages sent, $4.99 for 250 and $9.99 for 750. IM messages on the three largest providers, AOL, MSN and Yahoo, are free.