Why is Pager Coverage Vanishing in the State of Illinois?


It’s a small pager world and it keeps getting smaller. Recently, the Illinois Department of Central Management Services BCCS (Bureau of Communication and Computer Services) in their Telecommunications Bulletin, announced the decommissioning of telecommunication towers which provided pager services for six of their local cities and towns.  The Bulletin also reported that another four cities may also be out of service in coming months.

This news follows two previous pager service discontinuation bulletins in August Bulletin and October Bulletin of last year for yet two other Illinois cities. The trend is serious news for the state, which anticipates the decommissioning trend to continue.

So what is causing the paging service providers to terminate such critical messaging coverage to area cities?  The answer may just come down to dollars and cents.

It’s no secret that the traditional paging industry is currently facing some serious challenges. The original telephone based pager systems, developed in 1949 and approved by the FCC for commercial use in 1958, have become sidelined by advancements in technology. Simply put, there is newer, more comprehensive and more reliable communications methods that make traditional pager devices archaic.

Having peaked around 1999, pager service subscriptions have steadily declined to record lows today as users shifted to more convenient and advanced devices. Additionally, paging service providers are getting pressure from the FCC to bring their aging infrastructure up to date to meet Reliability and Continuity of Communications Networks standards.

The outcome is that pager infrastructures are becoming too costly to maintain. Paging service providers are choosing to decommission towers and/or transmitters which ultimately reduces coverage for cities and towns. As a result, traditional pager services are starting to disappear. They are vanishing.

“Paging is a technology that is rapidly becoming obsolete” says Betty Russell of the CMC Customer Service Center” in a May Telecommunications Bulletin.  “The best option for replacing pagers is a cell phone”.

We couldn’t agree more, Betty. Despite the shrinking coverage areas for traditional pager services, the need for critical messaging remains. Physicians, fire fighters, and other first responders still need to have priority messaging systems in place to ensure the safety of the communities in which they live. They need a system that alerts them in a way that has a higher priority than a regular phone or SMS text message.

Virtual paging, which allows users to use their existing on-person technology like a smartphone yet still receive priority notifications seems to be the answer. Companies like OnPage, that can replace the priority messaging function with a hosted smartphone application, are well positioned to help ease the burden of those individuals responsible for transitioning the critical communication platforms from a vanishing technology to a modern one, so users don’t find themselves ‘out of service’.

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