Vodafone axes pager business 'based on ageing technology'

Operator had only about 1,000 customers left using mobile technology that became popular in the 1980s

Vodafone is to shut down its pager business after failing to receive backing from the competition watchdog to sell the dwindling division that relies on old technology popular in the 1980s.

The telecoms group said it was ditching plans to sells the business to Capita’s PageOne, and would instead close it after the Competition and Markets Authority announced plans to launch an in-depth investigation into the deal.

“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,” a spokesperson for the company said.

“We will do our utmost to minimise the impact on the 1,000 or so customers still using the service.”

Once a symbol of status and wealth, the use of beeping pagers rapidly declined in the late 1990s as mobile phones became more widespread and text messaging a quick and casual way to communicate. Since then, demand for pagers has further diminished with the rise of smartphones and tablets.

However, pagers are still favoured by some because of their reliability. Where mobile phone networks can be patchy or slow, the separate paging network offers greater reliability in reception and reach, especially in rural areas. Compared with modern smartphones, pager batteries also last much longer.

Users include medical staff, emergency responders, lifeboat crews and infrastructure companies such as EDF Energy. Paging services have also been popular with birdwatchers, delivering information about new sightings as soon as they are recorded.

Vodafone’s withdrawal from the market will mean PageOne is the UK’s only remaining supplier of paging services across a wide area.

Commenting before the company surprise decision to pull the plug on the division, the CMA said it was concerned that a merger of the two would result in price rises for customers and a poorer service.

“Capita and Vodafone both supply wide-area paging services to customers, including emergency services and hospitals. Customers rely on pagers because issues such as coverage, reliability and battery life mean that alternative technologies, like mobile phones, are not suitable,” the regulator said.

“The Competition and Markets Authority’s initial investigation into the merger has found that it could lead to a substantial lessening of competition. After the merger, customers could face price rises and reduced quality of coverage.”

Vodafone said it was puzzled by the decision. “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,” it said.

A spokesperson for PageOne said the company was “disappointed” the deal was not approved by the CMA, but declined to comment further.

Contributor

Angela Monaghan

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Vodafone to stop its ads appearing on fake news and hate speech sites
Telecoms company to work with Google and Facebook to set up a ‘whitelist’ of safe sites on which its advertising can appear

Mark Sweney

06, Jun, 2017 @2:41 PM

Article image
Vodafone fails to hit legal minimum for 3G mobile internet coverage

British-owned operator is only network to miss legal obligation to extend 3G to 90% of UK population, says Ofcom

Juliette Garside, telecoms correspondent

07, Nov, 2013 @1:47 PM

Article image
Vodafone has left me stuck between two mobile phones
I wanted my old number ported from Orange, but this failed and now I can’t get the internet

Miles Brignall

15, Jun, 2015 @6:00 AM

Article image
Europe drafts law to ban mobile roaming charges
EU commission legislation would introduce flat rate call charges, but big network providers say changes could cost them €7bn

Juliette Garside, telecoms correspondent

05, Sep, 2013 @7:37 PM

Article image
TalkTalk and Vodafone dishing up 'worst UK customer service'
Ofcom finds broadband users with TalkTalk and Vodafone mobile customers got worst treatment among providers

Mark Sweney

02, May, 2018 @11:01 PM

Article image
New Year’s Day mobile phone call made history and started a new era
Son of Vodafone chief phoned home 30 years ago in the early hours of 1 January on briefcase prototype weighing 5kg

Rupert Neate

31, Dec, 2014 @3:30 PM

Article image
What is 5G and when can I get it in the UK?
All you need to know about the next generation mobile phone network

Samuel Gibbs

25, May, 2019 @6:00 AM

Article image
Three becomes latest mobile firm to bring back roaming charges
End to almost five years of free roaming across Europe will come into effect from 23 May 2022

Mark Sweney

09, Sep, 2021 @12:36 PM

Article image
Vodafone warns of drop in earnings amid £19bn investment drive
Mobile phone giant confirms huge 'Project Spring' 4G investment plan across Europe as it cuts value of European operators by £6.6bn

Juliette Garside

20, May, 2014 @7:09 PM

Article image
Dixons Carphone warns on profits as customers keep phones for longer
Retailer says weak pound has made handsets more expensive, meaning that fewer people are getting upgrades

Julia Kollewe

24, Aug, 2017 @9:01 AM