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A Motorola Advisor alphanumeric pager used in Brazil in the 1990s, operated by Teletrim Pager teletrim.JPG
A Motorola Advisor alphanumeric pager used in Brazil in the 1990s, operated by Teletrim

A pager (also known as a beeper) is a wireless telecommunications device that receives and displays alphanumeric or voice messages. One-way pagers can only receive messages, while response pagers and two-way pagers can also acknowledge, reply to, and originate messages using an internal transmitter. [1]

Telecommunication Transmission of information between locations using electromagnetics

Telecommunication is the transmission of signs, signals, messages, words, writings, images and sounds or information of any nature by wire, radio, optical or other electromagnetic systems. Telecommunication occurs when the exchange of information between communication participants includes the use of technology. It is transmitted through a transmission media, such as over physical media, for example, over electrical cable, or via electromagnetic radiation through space such as radio or light. Such transmission paths are often divided into communication channels which afford the advantages of multiplexing. Since the Latin term communicatio is considered the social process of information exchange, the term telecommunications is often used in its plural form because it involves many different technologies.


Pagers operate as part of a paging system which includes one or more fixed transmitters (or in the case of response pagers and two-way pagers, one or more base stations), as well as a number of pagers carried by mobile users. These systems can range from a restaurant system with a single low-power transmitter, to a nationwide system with thousands of high-power base stations.

Base transceiver station

A base transceiver station (BTS) is a piece of equipment that facilitates wireless communication between user equipment (UE) and a network. UEs are devices like mobile phones (handsets), WLL phones, computers with wireless Internet connectivity. The network can be that of any of the wireless communication technologies like GSM, CDMA, wireless local loop, Wi-Fi, WiMAX or other wide area network (WAN) technology.

Pagers were developed in the 1950s and 1960s, [2] and became widely used by the 1980s. In the 21st century, the widespread availability of cellphones and smartphones has greatly diminished the pager industry. Nevertheless, pagers continue to be used by some emergency services and public safety personnel, because modern pager systems' coverage overlap, combined with use of satellite communications, can make paging systems more reliable than terrestrial-based cellular networks in some cases, including during natural and man-made disasters. [3] This resilience has led public safety agencies to adopt pagers over cellular and other commercial services for critical messaging. [4] [5]

The 21st (twenty-first) century is the current century of the Anno Domini era or Common Era, in accordance with the Gregorian calendar. It began on January 1, 2001, and will end on December 31, 2100. It is the first century of the 3rd millennium. It is distinct from the century known as the 2000s which began on January 1, 2000, and will end on December 31, 2099.

Smartphone Multi-purpose mobile device

Smartphones are a class of mobile phones and of multi-purpose mobile computing devices. They are distinguished from feature phones by their stronger hardware capabilities and extensive mobile operating systems, which facilitate wider software, internet, and multimedia functionality, alongside core phone functions such as voice calls and text messaging. Smartphones typically include various sensors that can be leveraged by their software, such as a magnetometer, proximity sensors, barometer, gyroscope and accelerometer, and support wireless communications protocols such as Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and satellite navigation.

The UK National Health Service is thought to use over 10% of remaining pagers in 2017 (130,000), [6] with an annual cost of £6.6 million. [7] Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, announced in February 2019 that the 130,000 pagers still in use were to be phased out. [8]

National Health Service publicly funded healthcare systems within the United Kingdom

The National Health Service in the United Kingdom includes NHS England, NHS Scotland, NHS Wales, and the affiliated Health and Social Care (HSC) in Northern Ireland. They were established together in 1948 as one of the major social reforms following the Second World War. The founding principles were that services should be comprehensive, universal and free at the point of delivery. Each service provides a comprehensive range of health services, free at the point of use for people ordinarily resident in the United Kingdom, apart from dental treatment and optical care. The English NHS also requires patients to pay prescription charges with a range of exemptions from these charges.

Matt Hancock British Conservative politician

Matthew John David Hancock is a British politician serving as Secretary of State for Health and Social Care since 2018. A member of the Conservative Party, he has been the Member of Parliament (MP) for West Suffolk since 2010.

Secretary of State for Health and Social Care United Kingdom government cabinet minister

Her Majesty's Principal Secretary of State for Health and Social Care is a British cabinet position serving as head of the Department of Health and Social Care and holds responsibility for the National Health Service (NHS). Since devolution in 1999, the position holder's responsibility for the NHS is mainly restricted to the health service in England, with the holder's counterparts in Scotland and Wales responsible for the NHS in Scotland and Wales. Prior to devolution, the Secretaries of State for Scotland and Wales had those respective responsibilities, but the Department of Health had a larger role than now in the co-ordination of health policy across Great Britain. Health services in Northern Ireland have always had separate arrangements from the rest of the UK, and are currently the responsibility of the Health Minister in the Northern Ireland Executive.

In Japan, circa 1996, ten millions of pagers were active. [2] On October 1, 2019, Japan's last page provider shut down radio signals and terminated its service. [2]

Japan Island country in East Asia

Japan is an island country in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies off the eastern coast of the Asian continent and stretches from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and the Philippine Sea in the south.


A dual-frequency Unication pager for use by EMS units Alphadual.jpg
A dual-frequency Unication pager for use by EMS units
A Skyper pager that is in use for ham radio Skyper-stardado.JPG
A Skyper pager that is in use for ham radio
Original Motorola "Pageboy II" pager, used in New York in the late 1970s. Motorolaradiobeeper.jpg
Original Motorola "Pageboy II" pager, used in New York in the late 1970s.

The first telephone pager system was patented in 1949 by Alfred J. Gross. [9]

Alfred J. Gross American inventor

Alfred J. Gross, a.k.a. Irving J. Gross was a pioneer in mobile wireless communication. He created and patented many communications devices, specifically in relation to an early version of the walkie-talkie, Citizens' Band radio, the telephone pager and the cordless telephone.

One of the first practical paging services was launched in 1950 for physicians in the New York City area. Physicians paid $12 per month for the service and carried a 200-gram (7 oz) pager that would receive phone messages within 40 kilometres (25 mi) of a single transmitter tower. The system was manufactured by the Reevesound Company and operated by Telanswerphone. [10] In 1960, John Francis Mitchell combined elements of Motorola's walkie-talkie and automobile radio technologies to create the first transistorized pager, [11] [12] [13] and from that time, paging technology continued to advance, and pager adoption among emergency personnel is still popular, as of July 2016. [14]

In 1962 the Bell System—the U.S. telephone monopoly colloquially known as "Ma Bell"—presented its Bellboy radio paging system at the Seattle World's Fair. Bellboy was the first commercial system for personal paging. It also marked one of the first consumer applications of the transistor (invented by Bell Labs in 1947), for which three Bell Labs inventors received a Nobel Prize in Physics in 1956. Solid-state circuitry enabled the Bellboy pager, about the size of a small TV remote device, to fit into a customer's pocket or purse, quite a feat at that time. The Bellboy was a terminal that notified the user when someone was trying to call them. When the person received an audible signal (a buzz) on the pager, the user found a telephone and called the service centre, which informed the user of the caller's message. Bell System Bellboy radio pagers each used three reed receiver relays, each relay tuned to one of 33 different frequencies, selectively ringing a particular customer when all three relays were activated at the same time—a precursor of DTMF. [15] The ReFLEX protocol was developed in the mid-1990s.

While Motorola announced the end of its new pager manufacturing in 2001, [16] pagers remained in use in large hospital complexes. [6] Another is a facility handling classified information, where various radio transmitter or data storage devices are excluded to ensure security. First responders in rural areas with inadequate cellular coverage are often issued pagers[ citation needed ].

The 2005 London bombings resulted in overload of TETRA systems by the emergency services, and showed that pagers, with their absence of necessity to transmit an acknowledgement before showing the message, and the related capability to operate on very low signal levels, are not completely outclassed by their successors. [17] Volunteer firefighters, EMS paramedics, and rescue squad members usually carry pagers to alert them of emergency call outs for their department. These pagers receive a special tone from a fire department radio frequency.

Restaurant pagers were in wide use in the 2000s. Customers were given a portable receiver that usually vibrates, flashes, or beeps when a table becomes free or when their meal is ready. [18] Pagers have been popular with birdwatchers in Britain and Ireland since 1991, with companies Rare Bird Alert and Birdnet Information offering news of rare birds sent to pagers that they sell. [19] [20]

The U.S. paging industry generated $2.1 billion in revenue in 2008, down from $6.2 billion in 2003. [21] In Canada, 161,500 Canadians paid $18.5 million for pager service in 2013. Telus, one of the three major mobile carriers, announced the end to its Canadian pager service as of March 31, 2015, but rivals Bell, Rogers and PageNet intend to continue service. [16]


Timex Datalink Beepwear Pro: a wearable pager/watch featuring alphanumeric paging capability. Part of the Timex Datalink family of watches Timex Datalink Beepwear Pro.jpg
Timex Datalink Beepwear Pro: a wearable pager/watch featuring alphanumeric paging capability. Part of the Timex Datalink family of watches

Many paging network operators now allow numeric and textual pages to be submitted to the paging networks via email. This is convenient for many users, due to the widespread adoption of email; but email-based message submission methods do not usually provide any way to ensure that messages have been received by the paging network. This can result in pager messages being delayed or lost. Older forms of message submission using the Telelocator Alphanumeric Protocol involve modem connections directly to a paging network, and are less subject to these delays. For this reason, older forms of message submission retain their usefulness for disseminating highly-important alerts to users such as emergency services personnel.

Common paging protocols include TAP, FLEX, ReFLEX, POCSAG, GOLAY, ERMES and NTT. Past paging protocols include Two-tone and 5/6-tone. In the United States, pagers typically receive signals using the FLEX protocol in the 900 MHz band. Commercial paging transmitters typically radiate 1000 watts of effective power, resulting in a much wider coverage area per tower than a mobile phone transmitter, which typically radiates around 0.6 watts per channel. Although 900 MHz FLEX paging networks tend to have stronger in-building coverage than mobile phone networks, commercial paging service providers will work with large institutions to install repeater equipment in the event that service is not available in needed areas of the subscribing institution's buildings. This is especially critical in hospital settings where emergency staff must be able to reliably receive pages in order to respond to patient needs.

Unlike mobile phones, most one-way pagers do not display any information about whether a signal is being received or about the strength of the received signal. Since one-way pagers do not contain transmitters, one-way paging networks have no way to track whether a message has been successfully delivered to a pager. Because of this, if a one-way pager is turned off or is not receiving a usable signal at the time a message is transmitted, the message will not be received and the sender of the message will not be notified of this fact. In the mid-1990s, some paging companies began offering a service, which allowed a customer to call their pager-number, and have numeric messages read back to them. This was useful for times when the pager was off or out of the coverage area, as it would know what pages were sent to the subscriber even if the subscriber never actually received the page. Other radio bands used for pagers include the 400 MHz band, the VHF band, and the FM commercial broadcast band (88-108 MHz). Other paging protocols used in the VHF, 400 MHz UHF, and 900 MHz bands include POCSAG and ERMES. Pagers using the commercial FM band receive a subcarrier, called the Subsidiary Communications Authority, of a broadcast station. On-site paging systems in hospitals, unlike wide area paging systems, are local area services. Hospitals commonly use on-site paging for communication with staff and increasingly for contacting waiting patients when their appointment is due. These offer waiting patients the opportunity to leave the waiting area, but still be contacted.


The top of a Motorola "Bravo" numeric pager NumericPager.jpg
The top of a Motorola "Bravo" numeric pager

Paging systems are operated by commercial carriers, often as a subscription service, and they are also operated directly by end users as private systems. Commercial carrier systems tend to cover a larger geographical area than private systems, while private systems tend to cover their limited area more thoroughly and deliver messages faster than commercial systems. In all systems, clients send messages to pagers, an activity commonly referred to as paging. System operators often assign unique phone numbers or email addresses to pagers (and pre-defined groups of pagers), enabling clients to page by telephone call, e-mail, and SMS. Paging systems also support various types of direct connection protocols, which sacrifice global addressing and accessibility for a dedicated communications link. Automated monitoring and escalation software clients, often used in hospitals, IT departments, and alarm companies, tend to prefer direct connections because of the increased reliability. Small paging systems, such as those used in restaurant and retail establishments, often integrate a keyboard and paging system into a single box, reducing both cost and complexity.

Paging systems support several popular direct connection protocols, including TAP, TNPP, SNPP, and WCTP, as well as proprietary modem- and socket-based protocols. Additionally, organizations often integrate paging systems with their Voice-mail and PBX systems, conceptually attaching pagers to a telephone extensions, and they set up web portals to integrate pagers into other parts of their enterprise. A paging system alerts a pager (or group of pagers) by transmitting information over an RF channel, including an address and message information. This information is formatted using a paging protocol, such as 2-tone, 5/6-tone, GOLAY, POCSAG, FLEX, ERMES, or NTT. Two-way pagers and response pagers typically use the ReFLEX protocol.

Modern paging systems typically use multiple base transmitters to modulate the same signal on the same RF channel, a design approach called simulcast . This type of design enables pagers to select the strongest signal from several candidate transmitters using FM capture, thereby improving overall system performance. Simulcast systems often use satellite to distribute identical information to multiple transmitters, and GPS at each transmitter to precisely time its modulation relative to other transmitters. The coverage overlap, combined with use of satellite communications, can make paging systems more reliable than terrestrial based cellular networks in some cases, including during natural and man-made disaster. [3] This resilience has led public safety agencies to adopt pagers over cellular and other commercial services for critical messaging. [4] [5]


Pagers themselves vary from very cheap and simple beepers, to more complex personal communications equipment, falling into eight main categories.

Beepers or tone-only pagers
Beepers or tone-only pagers are the simplest and least expensive form of paging. They were named beepers because they originally made a beeping noise, but current pagers in this category use other forms of alert as well. Some use audio signals, others light up and some vibrate, often used in combination. The majority of restaurant pagers fall into this category. [18]
Voice/Tone pagers enable pager users to listen to a recorded voice message when an alert is received.
Numeric Pagers contain a numeric LCD display capable of displaying the calling phone number or other numeric information generally up to 10 digits. The display can also convey pager codes, a set of number codes corresponding to mutually understood pre-defined messages.
Alphanumeric pagers contain a more sophisticated LCD capable of displaying text and icons. These devices receive text messages, often through email or direct connection to the paging system. The sender must enter a message, either numeric and push # or, text & push # or a verbal message. The pager does not automatically record the sender's number; the pager will beep but no message can be seen or heard if none has been entered.
Response pagers are alphanumeric pagers equipped with built-in transmitters, with the ability to acknowledge/confirm messages. They also allow the user to reply to messages by way of a multiple-choice response list, and to initiate "canned" messages from pre-programmed address and message lists. These devices are sometimes called "1.5-way pagers" or "1.7-way pagers" depending on capabilities.
Two-way pagers are response pagers with built-in QWERTY keyboards. These pagers allow the user to reply to messages, originate messages, and forward messages using free-form text as well as "canned" responses.
One-way modems
One-way modems are controllers with integrated paging receivers, which are capable of taking local action based on messages and data they receive.
Two-way modems
Two-way modems have capabilities similar to one-way modems. They can also confirm messages and transmit their own messages and data.


Pagers also have privacy advantages compared with cellular phones. Since a one-way pager is a passive receiver only (it sends no information back to the base station), its location cannot be tracked. However, this can also be disadvantageous, as a message sent to a pager must be broadcast from every paging transmitter in the pager's service area. Thus, if a pager has nationwide service, a message sent to it could be intercepted by criminals or law enforcement agencies anywhere within the nationwide service area.

As is the case with many new technologies, the functionality of the pager shifted from necessary professional use to a social tool integrated in one's personal life. [22] :175 During the rise of the pager, it became the subject of various forms of media; most notably in the 1990s hip-hop scene. Upcoming mainstream artists such as Ice Cube, Method Man, and A Tribe Called Quest began referencing forthcoming mobile technologies, in particular the pager. A Tribe Called Quest's single "Skypager" directly speaks of the importance of such a wireless communication device. "Q-Tip" conveys that the Skypager "serves an important communicative function for a young professional with a full calendar". [22] Three 6 Mafia's "2-Way Freak", Sir Mix-A-Lot's "Beepers" and "Bug a Boo" from Destiny's Child also make reference to pagers. Illicit drug dealers used pagers to great effect during the 1990s to conduct commerce, using them to arrange meetings with buyers. Associate superintendent for Dade County Public Schools in Florida James Fleming once called them "the most dominant symbol of the drug trade" and schools have previously forbidden students from carrying them because of the ease with which they could be "used to arrange illegal drug sales". [23]

See also

Related Research Articles

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SMS Text messaging service component

SMS is a text messaging service component of most telephone, Internet, and mobile device systems. It uses standardized communication protocols to enable mobile devices to exchange short text messages. An intermediary service can facilitate a text-to-voice conversion to be sent to landlines. SMS was the most widely used data application at the end of 2010, with an estimated 3.5 billion active users, or about 80% of all mobile subscribers.

The Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) is a signaling protocol used for initiating, maintaining, and terminating real-time sessions that include voice, video and messaging applications. SIP is used for signaling and controlling multimedia communication sessions in applications of Internet telephony for voice and video calls, in private IP telephone systems, in instant messaging over Internet Protocol (IP) networks as well as mobile phone calling over LTE (VoLTE).

The Universal Mobile Telecommunications System (UMTS) is a third generation mobile cellular system for networks based on the GSM standard. Developed and maintained by the 3GPP, UMTS is a component of the International Telecommunications Union IMT-2000 standard set and compares with the CDMA2000 standard set for networks based on the competing cdmaOne technology. UMTS uses wideband code division multiple access (W-CDMA) radio access technology to offer greater spectral efficiency and bandwidth to mobile network operators.

Emergency position-indicating radiobeacon station A distress radiobeacon, a tracking transmitter that is triggered during an accident

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A two-way radio is a radio that can both transmit and receive a signal, unlike a broadcast receiver which only receives content. It is an audio (sound) transceiver, a transmitter and receiver in one unit, designed for bidirectional person-to-person voice communication with other users with similar radios. Two-way radios are available in mobile, stationary base and hand-held portable configurations. Hand-held two-way radios are often called walkie-talkies, handie-talkies or hand-helds.

Improved Mobile Telephone Service

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Mobile radio telephone

Mobile radio telephone systems were telephone systems of wireless type that preceded the modern cellular mobile form of telephony technology. Since they were the predecessors of the first generation of cellular telephones, these systems are sometimes retroactively referred to as pre-cellular systems. Technologies used in pre-cellular systems included the Push to Talk, Mobile Telephone Service (MTS), Improved Mobile Telephone Service (IMTS), and Advanced Mobile Telephone System (AMTS) systems. These early mobile telephone systems can be distinguished from earlier closed radiotelephone systems in that they were available as a commercial service that was part of the public switched telephone network, with their own telephone numbers, rather than part of a closed network such as a police radio or taxi dispatch system.

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Radio Technology of using radio waves to carry information

Radio is the technology of signaling and communicating using radio waves. Radio waves are electromagnetic waves of frequency between 30 hertz (Hz) and 300 gigahertz (GHz). They are generated by an electronic device called a transmitter connected to an antenna which radiates the waves, and received by a radio receiver connected to another antenna. Radio is very widely used in modern technology, in radio communication, radar, radio navigation, remote control, remote sensing and other applications. In radio communication, used in radio and television broadcasting, cell phones, two-way radios, wireless networking and satellite communication among numerous other uses, radio waves are used to carry information across space from a transmitter to a receiver, by modulating the radio signal in the transmitter. In radar, used to locate and track objects like aircraft, ships, spacecraft and missiles, a beam of radio waves emitted by a radar transmitter reflects off the target object, and the reflected waves reveal the object's location. In radio navigation systems such as GPS and VOR, a mobile receiver receives radio signals from navigational radio beacons whose position is known, and by precisely measuring the arrival time of the radio waves the receiver can calculate its position on Earth. In wireless radio remote control devices like drones, garage door openers, and keyless entry systems, radio signals transmitted from a controller device control the actions of a remote device.

Telocator Alphanumeric Protocol

Telelocator Alphanumeric Protocol (TAP) is an industry-standard protocol for sending short messages via a land-line modem to a provider of pager and/or SMS services, for onward transmission to pagers and mobile phones.

Operator Messaging is the term, similar to Text Messaging and Voice Messaging, applying to an answering service call center who focuses on one specific scripting style that has grown out of the alphanumeric pager history.

Gold Apollo

Gold Apollo Co., Ltd. is a manufacturer specializing in wireless paging systems, with wide spectrum of products which offers solutions to various occasions and customized paging systems.


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