Paging Companies Add Features to Counter Rush to Cell Phones
Paging Companies Add Features to Counter Rush to Cell Phones New York, Aug. 14 (Bloomberg) -- Seven months ago, Ragu Gurumurthy ditched his SkyTel Communications Inc. text pager.
The New York-based consultant discarded it after spending more than $300 a month on a wireless phone service from AT&T Corp. that can receive short messages.
Still, after five months beep-free, Gurumurthy -- a principal in Booz-Allen & Hamilton's communications, media and technology group -- bought a new pager from Waterloo, Ontario- based Research in Motion Ltd. It allows him to type replies to his messages, a feature his old pager didn't have.
Don't write the obituary for the pager just yet. Though the popularity of wireless phones is booming, paging companies think they've identified a promising market in people like Gurumurthy: high-spending business customers who yak away on cell phones, though they still want to be in constant contact with colleagues via new two-way pagers.
These so-called interactive pagers can cost as much as $359 -- almost double the $199 cost of Motorola Inc.'s digital StarTac wireless phones -- and carry monthly service fees of $24.95 or more.
Gurumurthy thinks the cost is well worth it. His device lets him respond to colleagues' requests unobtrusively, even during meetings. It's a big improvement over the old gadget. ``Just having a pager to receive information ... doesn't add that much value,'' said Gurumurthy, who logs about 100,000 miles a year to meet with clients in Atlanta and Austin, Texas. If you can't reply to a page, he said sarcastically, ``it's as good as ignoring a call.''
Analysts expect the market for interactive pagers to grow in step with the use of e-mail and the Internet. ``Carriers are looking to get into the high end of paging users, people who rely on messaging,'' said Phillip Redman, a Yankee Group analyst.