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Paging network to be shut down in New Zealand

Paging network to be shut down in New Zealand

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

Nowadays, paging is being retired around the world as businesses move to alternatives like mobiles and smartphones that offer far richer two-way interactions, and reduce 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.

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, 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%. As a result, Spark New Zealand will work with its remaining paging customers over the next 20 months to transition them to newer digital technology solutions.

Today there is a proliferation of mobile-based mobile messaging solutions that are feature rich compared with paging. Many Spark Digital customers have moved from paging to eTXT™ as an immediate, quick, cost effective and simple way to message straight to a mobile phone. Over-The-Top messaging apps such as WhatsApp, and Kik also provide the ability for groups to communicate over any data network connected to the internet. Spark Digital along with a selection of its software development partners is working on bringing the best mix of messaging services to customers who want to modernise the way they engage with their staff and customers.

“Our decision to shut the paging network has not been taken lightly – 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,” says Chief Operating Officer David Havercroft. “We’ve explored selling the paging network and so far we haven’t found a buyer.”

“How we communicate with each other has evolved well beyond the capability allowed for by one-way paging. Much of our customer base has migrated away from pagers to mobile telephony using 4G LTE networks and smartphones.”

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


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