Australians are paying too much to send text messages, so the competition watchdog is looking to regulate the wholesale costs of texting for the first time.

Mobile networks can carry up to 430 text messages for the same capacity as one minute of voice calling, yet carriers charge consumers about a third of the cost of a minute of voice for texts.

Network owners were ''profiteering'' from high wholesale texting charges, according to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, which now wants to regulate the ''terminating fee'' - the wholesale cost of sending text messages between mobile networks.

''There are indications that SMS termination rates have not changed for many years, commercial negotiations have been unsuccessful in lowering these rates, and that SMS termination prices are inefficiently high,'' the ACCC's Mobile Terminating Access Service review found.

The cost of texting was high compared to charges of about 90¢ a minute for voice calls, according to some pre-paid plans.

Termination rates were paid whenever a text message was sent from one network to another. For example, when an Optus customer texts a Telstra customer, Optus must pay Telstra a fee for ''terminating'' the text on Telstra's network.

The ACCC currently regulates the price mobile operators must pay if a customer calls another network - 6¢ a minute and falling to 3.6¢ a minute next year - but has never regulated SMS prices.

Telstra, Optus and Vodafone Hutchison Australia could not bargain lower terminating fees out of each other and retail prices would remain ''inefficiently high'' if wholesale prices were not regulated, the ACCC concluded.

''This is likely to mean that where unlimited SMS services are offered, the prices for other elements of the bundle will be unlikely to decrease, and that where SMS are charged per message, these prices will remain above costs. Further, the ability of some [mobile network operators] and [retailers] to effectively compete in the retail market may be constrained if SMS termination services are not declared.''

While many consumers can avoid texting costs by using internet-based messaging services, these were still not available to the large number of Australians who did not have a smartphone and were only available if both sender and receiver had the same apps.