YOU ARE AT:Archived ArticlesNEW PCS OFFERINGS WON'T TAKE AWAY FROM PAGING CUSTOMER BASE

NEW PCS OFFERINGS WON’T TAKE AWAY FROM PAGING CUSTOMER BASE

There is enough room in today’s marketplace of specialized products for both traditional paging and the handset messaging offered by new 1800 MHz wireless operators and digital cellular operators, analysts say.

“Consider the microwave oven,” said David Abraham of David Abraham & Co., Westport, Conn., a financial advisory firm. “When the microwave came out, people said it would replace conventional ovens. It didn’t.”

Paging operators believe the market for an inexpensive handheld device will continue to expand, even after short message services are introduced by PCS and other digital wireless operators.

Short message services are transmitted on the 800 MHz or 1800 MHz network. PCS phones have multiline liquid crystal display screens and are built to manage messaging, but they don’t contain pagers. Some phones beep quietly when a message is received and an icon appears on the screen.

“It’s a powerful concept to carry a single device, and some people will feel they don’t need a pager anymore,” said Glenn Gottlieb, product director for Pacific Bell Mobile Services. The California operator hopes to have its PCS network operating by year’s end, using Global System for Mobile communications technology. “But some people may still want a pager, in case they want to leave the phone behind,” Gottlieb said.

Short message service has succeeded in Europe, where it is being offered largely free of charge, according to a new report by the Yankee Group of Boston.

Messaging is promoted by PCS operators because it generates additional call traffic. The Yankee report states that the principal application of SMS in Europe has been the notification of voice mail; consequently, SMS may be seen as a complement to wireless voice devices, but not as a replacement for paging. U.S. cellular users polled didn’t express strong interest in the service, possibly due to a lack of awareness, the report said.

“Pagers have longer battery life, better in-building penetration and greater geographic coverage than either cellular or PCS-a fact not lost on the 30 percent of U.S. cellular subscribers who also carry a pager,” the Yankee report states. Also, a subscriber relying solely on SMS has to contend with handset battery down times.

On the plus side, two callers who are on the same PCS system can use the phone’s keypad to create and send messages back and forth.

“You can originate a freestyle message. Virtually all GSM handsets can send and receive messages,” Gottlieb said.

A great application, but consider the four primary things that make paging popular, according to Mark Witsaman, senior vice president of engineering and technology for paging operator MobileComm.

Pagers are small, inconspicuous devices.

Pagers are not costly; neither is the service.

Pager batteries last a long time.

Paging coverage tends to be very broad.

“All those features are unique to paging,” Witsaman said. That’s part of the battle two-way paging operators are facing-keeping the device small and the cost down. MobileComm launched a trial of two-way systems this year.

A messaging device in a voice handset is, to paging operators, another matter and possibly another market. It probably won’t replace pagers, just as the microwave didn’t replace the oven, Abraham said.

“Markets are moving toward more specialization, not less. Paging is an inexpensive way of solving a problem, so it fits a market need. PCS has made the assumption, and it’s up to them to demonstrate their marketplace acceptance,” he said.

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