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And the big winner looks to be … Cingular

No matter who triumphs in this year's ''American Idol" competition, Cingular Wireless may be the biggest winner.

Cingular Wireless is making out better than any of the contestants in the nationally televised talent show because of the boost it gets in text messaging from customers who vote for their favorite performer.

Cingular has an exclusive deal with the show's producers that lets its customers text in their votes instead of trying to call in on often-busy lines.

Last season, 41.5 million text votes were sent in; Cingular charges between $19.99 per month for a text package with 2,500 messages included and 10 cents per message on a pay-as-you-go plan, meaning the company raked in as much as $4.15 million in text messaging fees from ''American Idol" votes alone last year.

The company says it is already on pace to outdo last year's voting numbers. Think about that the next time Ryan Seacrest cajoles you to let your fingers do the voting.

KEITH REED

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