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'1980s technology' still going strong

Who knew pagers were still in use? The news that Vodafone is scrapping its pager service showed that it had around 1000 customers who were still using what could be considered as a legacy communications method.

Now, just one company – ironically, the one which was refused permission to take over Vodafone’s pager operation – will be available.

Paging would seem to be a very 1980s technology, bringing to mind images of executives with pagers clipped to their belts, but an article in sister magazine Land Mobile, says the first use of pagers in the UK was in 1956, when doctors at Guys and St Thomas’ hospitals in London could be summoned to emergencies. Today, the article contends, pagers can handle messages of up to 1000 characters and transmit them over wide areas; in some cases, to thousands of users. And, rather than plugging your phone in every day to charge it, the pager can run for up to three months on an AAA battery.

You might have thought that smartphones would have obviated the need for pagers, but paging is said to be a critical element of communications amongst the emergency services. Amongst its plus points is that communication is more resilient than via a smartphone, bearing in mind the number of ‘not spots’ in the UK’s mobile phone coverage.

In case you were wondering, the UK’s paging services operate on five frequencies: 26MHz, 49MHz, 138MHz, 153MHz and 454MHz at data rates of up to 2.4kbit/s.

While other 1980s devices such as the Walkman have disappeared, it seems there’s a lot of life left in the pager.

Graham Pitcher

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