The Era of Pagers in Japan is Officially Over

The last paging services provider plans to close all subscriptions by September 2019

Alpha Dual Unication pager

Depending on how much you know about Japan or if you have a chance to visit the country, you have probably noticed that some pretty archaic things are still in use there. For example squat toilets are a common option in public places, right next to those super-new and complicated electric heating seats. Faxes are inseparable part of any office in Japan. This fact continues to astonish those who do not know much about Japanese business.

Pagers used to be of the same importance. It was an attribute of any company clerk (or salaryman as they are called in Japan) along with their suits and briefcases. It is true that cell phones have replaced pagers as more functionally-advanced devices, but it does not mean that pagers are gone. They are still pretty useful to a narrow audience and have their benefits compared to cell phones.

Pager, What is it Good for?

First of all, as the number of mobile users is constantly increasing overloading the networks, the number of pager users declines leaving channels empty for communication without disturbances. Secondly, pagers have indoor coverage, meaning they do not lose connection to the network deep inside building. Finally, they do not emit signals hat interfere with other electronic devices with electromagnetic fields. All of which makes pagers a perfect device for medical personnel, who gets urgent messages instantly while being next to medical devices.

Another category of those who benefits from the use of pager are elderly people in Japan. For many of them it is hard to quit something that was ones learned and proved to be comfortable and useful after a certain age. Moreover, it is hard to skip right to cell phones after pager.

Finally, mountain rescue teams relay on paging a lot thanks to high-frequency radio signal used to send messages. It reaches far and needs fewer transmitters, and meets less interference from obstacles. A page reaches places where your cell phones will never be able to receive a call or text message.

In 1996, Tokyo Telemessage Inc. used to have 1.2 million subscribers. Today is has 1500.

Sayonara, Pagers.

Yet, the remaining 1500 users of pagers in Japan will have to let go of their favorite device because the last provider of paging services in the country, Tokyo Telemessage Inc., has announced that it will shut down the network by September 2019. The company that used to have 1.2 million subscribers in 1996 has not produced a new device in 20 years. So, it is time to say goodbye. However, the president of Tokyo Telemessage Inc stated that a new radio service will come instead of paging. It will work on frequencies used for disaster response and relief services.

Two other long-living paging companies, NTT Docomo Inc. and Okinawa Telemessage, have terminated their paging services in 2007 and 2017 accordingly.

It seems that even the UK, that still uses about 130,000 pagers these days (which comprises 10% of the global amount), is considering quitting paging services. BBC has reported that switching all the medical personal in the National Health Service to cell phones would save £2.7m a year. As useful as they are, pagers still do not allow for a two-way communication and do not give the same sense of emergency the way a call does.

Today’s “otsumami” – a bite size snack:

Now that pagers are officially gone, how soon will the faxes follow?

What do you think?

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