Spark shuts down legacy paging network

“Our decision to shut the paging network has not been taken lightly."

After several years of review Spark New Zealand has announced its decision to decommission the legacy paging network on 31 March 2017, meaning the days of getting ‘beeped’ are coming to an end.

Nowadays, the telco claims that paging is being retired around the world as businesses move to alternatives like mobiles and smartphones, reducing the need for users to carry separate devices.

Many of the major global telecommunications companies have turned-off their networks or sold off paging to third parties as the needs of their customers are integrated with mobile technology.

“Our decision to shut the paging network has not been taken lightly,” says David Havercroft, Chief Operating Officer, Spark.

“We’ve spent the last 18 months reviewing other options, but demand has been declining for more than 10 years and it has become apparent that it’s time to plan for the retirement of the paging service.

“We’ve explored selling the paging network and so far we haven’t found a buyer.”

The paging system was introduced to New Zealand in 1988, the year that the Hubble space Telescope was put into space, the first transatlantic fibre optic cable was laid able to carry 40,000 telephone calls simultaneously and ten years before Google arrived.

At its peak in 1994 there were 61 million paging users globally.

While paging has historically been used as a messaging option in many industries, Havercroft says customer demand has been on a “perpetual decline” for more than a decade as businesses have moved to mobile-based messaging solutions, and as the underlying analogue network ages it has become more vulnerable to outages and increasingly uneconomic to maintain.

In the past two years paging in New Zealand has declined by 65 percent. As a result, Havercroft says Spark will work with its remaining paging customers over the next 20 months to transition them to newer digital technology solutions.

“How we communicate with each other has evolved well beyond the capability allowed for by one-way paging,” he adds.

“Much of our customer base has migrated away from pagers to mobile telephony using 4G LTE networks and smartphones.”

Today, Havercroft believes there is a “proliferation of mobile-based mobile messaging solutions” that are feature rich compared with paging.

“We plan to work closely with all our customers including important government, health and emergency services over the next 20 months to identify their needs and transition them to a new appropriate digital solution,” Havercroft adds.

“Options for some customers, like the health industry could include providing their own on-site paging network at hospitals.”

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