Metro PCS, textPlus May Draw Consumers Into SMS Rate Fray

Recently we’ve reported on group texting, or SMS, services that have started en masse, like SMS GupShup’s “reply all” launched in the Philippines and Fast Society’s conference calling/texting hybrid solution. But what might spark mass adoption of group texting is budget carrier Metro PCS, which today announced a free service powered by GOGII’s textPlus app.

How it works: A MetroPCS user sends the keyword “!chat” to the short code 60611, which then prompts him or her to enter the contacts they want to include in the group chat. Then textPlus connects the user to the group. It’s still a step more than being able to send a message to a list of contacts and have everyone be able to reply all, but it doesn’t sound that clunky.

What’s really interesting about the MetroPCS/textPlus offering is that it could foment not just widespread consumer use of group texting in the United States–but also consumer outrage against SMS rate hikes.

We’ve reported on the lawsuit against T-Mobile regarding EZ Texting. The carrier has received criticism from, mostly, marketing advocates for raising its text-message rates for group messages. T-mobile has also come under fire for arbitrarily blocking messages based on content.

The fight over text message pricing–which stretches back two years, when Verizon had proposed an increase for group messager-senders–has mostly been carriers vs. marketers, with Congress weighing in. But Metro PCS, a service provider that appeals to a broad cross-section of American consumers, offering group texting could spark increased demand and adoption for such a service.

And that, in turn, would get consumers even more riled up against carriers that propose to raise texting rates. Cellular providers who increase SMS costs now risk alienating their would-be future customers.