AT&T has apparently realized that customers have little need to pay for international text messages when there are plenty of free services such as WhatsApp that perform the same function.
As such, the carrier is sweetening the deal for shared data plan subscribers, with free international text messaging from the United States. Subscribers can now send unlimited text messages to 190 countries, and unlimited picture and video messages to 120 countries. (The full list of supported countries is here.)
Keep in mind that this offer is only for subscribers on AT&T's Mobile Share plans, which already include unlimited domestic text messaging. If you're on an older plan, such as a grandfathered plan with unlimited data, you're out of luck.
Verizon made the exact same move earlier this month, adding free international text messaging to its "More Everything" plans. T-Mobile and Sprint both chart $10 extra per month for texting to other countries, but T-Mobile also includes mobile-to-landline calling to 70 countries.
While carriers have traditionally charged higher rates for international messages, apps such as WhatsApp, Viber, Line and Skype provide a workaround. As long as both users have these apps, they can exchange messages for free. The idea has clearly caught on, with WhatsApp touting more than 450 million active users as it prepares to be acquired by Facebook, and the company is coming after voice calls next.
If you're shopping around for wireless service, check out our guide to which of the major carriers are the cheapest.