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Is Paging Going Away?
September 23, 2016
In the spirit of the 2016 Presidential campaign it is time for someone to speak up about the status of paging use without regard for being politically correct. As a veteran of the paging industry for nearly 50 years I feel qualified to present the facts.
For many years I have heard people say that Paging is going away and being replaced by smartphones but that simply is not true. Paging systems continue to be sold and new pagers put into service every month. Paging is still being used along with cellphones for many reasons. It is true many people try using cellphones for messaging and for non-crucial messaging and it might satisfy them — until they miss an important message. Many that have experienced a serious cellphone service outage due to terrorist acts, natural disasters or other emergencies are using Paging again as it has been proven over and over again that Paging works.
For professionals, especially those involved in providing critical services, a missed message can mean life or death. The very reasons why Paging was created still exist today, i.e. fast, dependable, notification with short messages on a device that is not cluttered with games and has an unmistakable sound that signifies importance.
In a recent a study sponsored by (read PAID FOR) TigerText and utilizing research conducted by HIMSS Analytics and other industry research an attempt was made to discredit paging use by claiming it is too expensive. The study surveyed 200 hospitals and discovered that 90% of these organizations still use pagers. Now considering there are 5,627 registered hospitals in the US, if this percentage holds true then 5064.3 of them use paging. Does that sound like paging is going away?The article states their research surveyed 200 users with results clearly intended to minimalize the value of paging and makes me wonder why HIMSS chose to support one vendor (TigerText) over the entire paging community which ALSO attends, markets and exhibits at HIMSS conferences! Doesn’t it make you wonder if favorable research results are for sale?
There is no argument that smartphones are very useful and convenient for general messaging and searching for information. That use is far different from the role pagers play in critical messaging. And if you are going to use a mobile app on your smartphone wouldn’t it make sense to use one that the professional messaging (Paging) companies designed? Several paging service providers offer mobile phone apps for text messaging. Many of their apps have all the considerations for what makes messaging reliable and worthy of consideration.
Many people today, including those in the medical community, have never used a pager and have no incentive to do so until they have an unfortunate experience caused by service outages or system failures which is almost inevitable during severe weather or cell-site outages.
In spite of the evidence, the debates will continue so here are some the points that must be considered.
Who uses pagers? Doctors, nurses, E911 first responders, firefighters, police, energy producer’s emergency response teams, energy distribution systems, industrial alarm monitoring systems, to name a few.
How many pagers are in use?
In the beginning, Paging was used primarily in private systems3 for hospitals and public safety organizations. The quantity of pagers in service on private systems was not public information. Only vendors that were directly involved supplying pagers and systems had an idea of how many were used.
Many years after commercial Paging was introduced paging became very popular with the public and with businesses so units in service grew rapidly. The FCC required commercial Paging system operators to report their quantity of units in service so estimates of commercial market size was possible.
Eventually sales reached a point where volume discounts and competition drove the price down to a point where private system operators found they could save on labor and system operating expense by using commercial services and shut down their private systems. This caused a major shift of users from private systems to commercial systems and allowed a better estimate of units in service. Paging vendors also advertised their market share and sales growth — giving an even better view of the market size.
When cellphones finally became affordable, and signal coverage was greatly improved, many pager users switched to a cellphone to see if it was better for their specific needs. After many years of cellphone system expansion pager use started to decline but it was still popular with many users due to low prices.
Eventually many commercial Paging system users who were previously on private systems became disappointed with lack of support and poor quality service from the low cost Paging services so their organizations rebuilt private systems which were far more dependable. and provided more immediate alerting and message delivery.
When Paging usage reports showed a decline in subscribers, Paging did not go completely away as many believed it would. A lot of it went to private systems again. And, since only public companies report units in service, pagers on private systems were once again not included in the estimates of total units in service.
Today, there is only one publicly-traded Paging company that reports their units in service. Even though they report a decline in units each year some of these users have switched to other service providers, or have gone over to private systems, and are no longer visible. This creates the illusion that Paging is being discontinued.
With the advent of the Internet anyone can consider themselves to be a “Journalist” and “report” a story. When searching for news and information it is necessary to consider the source. Many sources lack credibility and their stories are simply poorly disguised ads paid for by companies promoting their own products.
For credible information you can contact the Critical Messaging Association4 (CMA) in America or in Europe; they represent the majority of Paging service providers, including commercial, government and private systems. These trade associations hold conferences in both the US and Europe where they share their experiences and ideas for new and improved uses of Paging technology. CMA members are the foremost experts on Paging technology and system management. CMA has a Paging Technical Committee that continuously reviews new requirements and improvements to better serve the customer community. The PTC welcomes customer input to make sure they are focused on actual needs as well as explore new innovations. The introduction of Paging message encryption is one example of how the PTC responded to the end customers’ needs to address HIPAA and other security issues.
Just so you don’t think these only my opinions, here are some of the comments I have heard or read regarding the use of smartphones and pagers:
Will any of this change someone’s mind? For some, it will not. But it just reminds me of a colleague's favorite saying “Yes, you can disagree with me . . . I can’t force you be right!”
1 Chief information officer (CIO), chief digital information officer (CDIO) or information technology (IT) director, is a job title commonly given to the most senior executive in an enterprise responsible for the information technology and computer systems that support enterprise goals.
2 HIPAA The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability act. The HIPAA Privacy Rule establishes national standards to protect individuals’ medical records and other personal health information and applies to health plans, health care clearinghouses, and those health care providers that conduct certain health care transactions electronically. The Rule requires appropriate safeguards to protect the privacy of personal health information, and sets limits and conditions on the uses and disclosures that may be made of such information without patient authorization
6 Short Message Service (SMS) is a text messaging service component of phone, Web, or mobile communication systems. It uses standardized communications protocols to allow fixed line or mobile phone devices to exchange short text messages.
8 Time division multiple access (TDMA) is a channel access method for shared medium networks. It allows several users to share the same frequency channel by dividing the signal into different time slots. The users transmit in rapid succession, one after the other, each using its own time slot.
9 GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications, originally Groupe Spécial Mobile ) is a standard developed by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) to describe the protocols for second-generation (2G) digital cellular networks used by mobile phones, first deployed in Finland in July 1991. As of 2014 it has become the de facto global standard for mobile communications — with over 90% market share, operating in over 219 countries and territories.
10 The Emergency Alert System (EAS) is a national public warning system that requires broadcasters, cable television systems, wireless cable systems, satellite digital audio radio service (SDARS) providers, and direct broadcast satellite (DBS) providers to provide the communications capability to the President to address the American public during a national emergency. The system also may be used by state and local authorities to deliver important emergency information, such as AMBER alerts and weather information targeted to specific areas. (Amber Alerts are an emergency response system that disseminates information about a missing person (usually a child), by media broadcasting or electronic roadway signs.)
11 “The Art And Science Of Simulcasting Redux” By Dennis Cameron
Additional pertinent information and sources:
Jim Nelson, President & CEO
C: +1 678 643 6705
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