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WhatsApp Free Texts Seen Siphoning $33 Billion From Carriers

Facebook Inc.’s $19 billion purchase of mobile-messaging startup WhatsApp Inc. is a stark reminder of how much money phone carriers are losing out on as competitors let users text and chat at no charge.

Free social-messaging applications like WhatsApp cost phone providers around the world -- from Vodafone Group Plc to America Movil SAB and Verizon Communications Corp. -- $32.5 billion in texting fees in 2013, according to research from Ovum Ltd. That figure is projected to reach $54 billion by 2016.