Spark prepares to shut down paging network

Spark New Zealand plans to decommission its legacy paging network in two years' time but is preparing contingency plans for some of its customers who are likely to continue using pagers, including emergency services and hospitals.

Spark issued a statement this week saying it would turn off its network on March 31, 2017. Paging is being retired around the world with many major telcos already having turned off or sold off their networks as businesses jump ship to mobiles and smartphones.

Spark said the paging system was introduced to New Zealand in 1988 and at its peak in 1994 there were 61 million paging users globally, but the pager market has seen a precipitous decline in the last decade. In New Zealand, paging has declined by 65 per cent in the last two years.

The underlying analogue network is also more vulnerable to outages and is increasingly uneconomic to maintain.

However, healthcare may prove to be the last hold-out for pagers. One industry expert told Pulse+IT last year that the acute care sector in particular is still holding firm to pagers as many healthcare workers only need one-way communications.

Spark chief operating officer David Havercroft said the company had looked for a buyer to for the network but hadn't been able to find one.

“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,” Mr Havercroft said.

“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 said Spark planned to work closely with all of its customers, including important government, health and emergency services clients, 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,” he said.

Posted in New Zealand eHealth

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