Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Pagers' Sophistication Keeps Sales Growing Low Cost and Versatility Stop Beepers from Losing Customers to Cellular Phones

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Pagers' Sophistication Keeps Sales Growing Low Cost and Versatility Stop Beepers from Losing Customers to Cellular Phones

Article excerpt

THE pager has grown up. Not long ago, pagers (or beepers as they are commonly called) did only one thing: They sat on their owner's belt and sounded a tone, alerting the wearer to get to a telephone and return a call.

Pagers still do that, but now they are smaller and lighter, come in less-than-conservative colors, and can be worn as a wristwatch. The most popular pagers, numeric pagers, have small screens that display up to 20 digits of type. Pagers also play back recorded voice messages or display much longer typed messages.

Soon some high-end business users will be able to communicate back and forth with their pagers, without using a phone at all. And already beepers can be used as wireless data transmitters, dumping pages of text to PCs and laptops without a modem, according to the Paging Services Council in Washington.

Some analysts anticipated that the paging industry, which has been in existence 40 years, would be eliminated with the advent of cellular products.

"Quite the opposite," says Elliott Hamilton, vice president of Economic and Management Consultants International (EMCI) in Washington, which specializes in wireless communication technologies. "Pagers compliment cellular services. About 25 percent of cellular users have pagers too." Pagers less expensive

Since cellular phone users have to pay for incoming calls, many find it more cost-effective to receive a message on their dsffafdpager and return the call if they want to from their cellular phone. Pagers are relatively inexpensive (the average monthly cost is $12 to $23 for a rented pager; $100 to purchase a no-frills beeper with an average service fee of $11 to $17) and smaller and lighter than cellular phones.

Cost-effectiveness has helped pagers stay afloat in an increasingly competitive communications market. "It's a chicken and egg thing," Mr. Hamilton says. "More subscribers mean more manufacturers, more competition, lower prices, and therefore more subscribers." EMCI projects that revenues in the pager industry will increase more than 15 percent annually over the next few years. …

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