Voda Pager Network Closure
PageOne, part of the Capita PLC group, was set to buy Vodafone’s remaining 1000 pager users and transfer them across to their own pager network. The deal was agreed in February of this year, but was subject to approval from the CMA. Had the approval been granted the network migration of the pager numbers was planned for summer 2017 and would have been processed by Vodafone and PageOne directly, with little or no disruption to the customers.
Pagers, the “in thing” in the 1980’s, quickly became outdated when mobile phones became more available, affordable and popular in the mid to late 1990’s. These days pagers are mostly used by emergency services and lifeboat crews who rely on the wide-area reception delivered by pager networks. They can receive messages up to 25miles from a transmitter, so when the users are in rural areas, or indeed at sea, they are still contactable. Where mobile phone coverage can be patchy, or mobile phone networks can be slow, the separate paging network offers greater reliability with regards to reception and can reach areas that mobile networks currently can’t. Pager batteries also last much longer than modern phone batteries. A lot of Doctors and nursing staff still use pagers, and have done since the 1950’s.
The concerns the CMA raised about the sale included price rises for customers and reduced quality of coverage, as Vodafone and PageOne run the UK’s last two paging businesses. Orange closed their pager network services in 2002 and O2 did the same in 2004. CMA believed that the sale would result in “substantial lessening of competition”
Due to this block in the sale between Vodafone and PageOne by the CMA, Vodafone have decided to pull out completely and just close down their aging pager network, which will leave the remaining subscribers to sort out their own alternatives. Vodafone will of course try and minimise the disruption to their pager customer base by giving regular updates and timescales on the closure of their paging network. Vodafone said it would be contacting customers over the next couple of days, and the service would close by the end of the year.
A spokesman for Vodafone said it was “disappointed” by the decision of the CMA to continue the investigation. ‘This seems to be a surprising decision considering that this market has been contracting for some time and no other country in Europe has more than one wide-area paging network,’ he added. ‘Due to the expense involved with a prolonged investigation, Vodafone will not pursue the transaction and has made the decision to close down this business, which is based on ageing, standalone technology no longer supported by network vendors. We will do our utmost to minimise the impact on the 1,000 or so customers still using the service.’
This all means that by the beginning of 2018, Capita’s PageOne pager network will be the only provider of pager networks in the UK.