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American Pager Professionals
  All You Need To Know
About Pagers

Learn about pager choices and how to find the best prices on hospital pagers, restaurant pagers, and paging service.
Here we give you the facts as well as our opinion to help you make informed choices.

The information contained below has been last updated on December 8, 2014.

Pagers, also known as pocket pagers or beepers, have been around since the 1950s. They are still being widely used in hospitals for both doctors and patients. Medical facilities, industrial facilities, and restaurants find that pagers are extremely useful in improving productivity and customer patronage. Many individuals find paging service to be much less costly than cellular service, and often preferable to cell phones based on particular needs. They are typically the least expensive method of receiving (and in some cases sending) vital information in the form of numeric, alphanumeric (text), annd voice messages. Motorola, the inventor or pagers, has gradually over time discontinued pager manufacture. Other brands such as Apollo, Unication, Daviscomms, and Sun Telecom are currently the most popular pager brands in the US. Pagers receive signals either from a series of towers (wide area paging) or from a local paging transmitter located within a hospital or other facility (on-site or local paging).

The most important factor in choosing a pager is to know if it is being used in a local environment or a wide-area environment.
  • Local Paging is found in hospitals, nursing homes, industrial facilities, restaurants or anywhere the transmitter or paging system is owned and controlled by the facility itself. For our purposes we also include fire, ems, and municipality-run paging systems under the heading of local paging. When the transmitter is owned by the facility there are no fees for receiving paging service. Our Buyer's Guide for paging systems and replacement pagers helps you find the right pagers at the lowest prices.
  • Wide-area Paging is typically considered to be city-wide or larger areas which can include up to nationwide coverage. This type of paging is done through a paging carrier or paging reseller and the user pays a monthly fee for the paging service. Our Buyer's Guide for paging service helps you find the best paging service providers with the lowest monthly airtime rates.
Once you know if the pager is for local or wide-area use, the information below will help you locate the best provider and the lowest prices.

Local Paging (On-site paging) View full screen

Pager Buying Guide

Local paging, also known as on-site paging, typically uses a single transmitter and multiple pagers to form a paging system. The system typically uses either a UHF (450 - 470 MHz) or VHF (152 - 158 MHz) frequency, but other frequencies may also be utilized. The digital signal encoding for alert-only, numeric, and alphanumeric in-house paging systems is called "pocsag". Most voice pagers still use analog transmissions and the most popular coding system is called "two-tone".
  • Alert-only pagers are most often used in restaurants, either for wait staff or customer notification when their table is ready.
  • Numeric pagers are used when only the message content will be a call-back phone number, room number, or a numeric code.
  • Alphanumeric pagers are used when custom or canned text messages need to be delivered. These are most often found in hospitals and related industries such as senior care.
  • Water-resist alpha pagers are used where the pager is likely to be exposed to moisture. These pagers are useful to firemen, nurse's aids, etc.
  • Voice pagers are most often used to dispatch fire and rescue teams including EMS personnel.
Pagers may be configured to all beep at the same time (all-call), or to beep individually (personal paging), or a combination of both. This is all done through programming addresses known as capcodes on the pagers and transmitter. Some transmitters are stand-alone devices and others connect to the facility's computer network. When ordering in-house pagers you will need to know at minimum the operating frequency which is presented in Megahertz (MHz) and is often found on the pager's label. You will also want to know if the paging transmitter is wide band (WB) or narrow band (NB). It is always best to use pagers that match the transmitter's bandwidth, however WB pagers will always work but NB pagers will only work with NB transmitters. There is a slight risk that WB pagers used on a NB frequency will occasionally miss pages due to interference from another nearby transmitter. In order for the pager to work on your paging system you will also need to know the baud rate and capcodes(s). All of these specifications can be pre-programmed by the provider, or can be programmed upon receipt of the pagers. Some pagers, such as Apollo alpha and numeric models are hand-programmable which allow you to easily program them without the need of a programming station.

A programming station is a device that connects between the pager and a computer, uses proprietary software, and is used to modify the frequency, baud rate, and capcodes, as well as other less critical parameters. Most programming stations cost $250 or more but are necessary if you want to do your own programming on models that are not hand-programmable. If you want to avoid the expense of purchasing a programming station, we advise that you purchase only Apollo pagers because they are hand-programmable and most models are also WB / NB selctable through hand programming. You will be able to easily make programming changes to the pagers should there be any change in the transmitter or if your needs change.

If you are setting up a new paging system, you can buy a pre-packaged system or design your own by choosing pagers and a transmitter. Most transmitters have a built-in antenna or include a plug-in antenna for small- to moderate-sized facilities, however if the facility is fairly large, your system may require an external antenna, multiple antennas, or repeaters. You will most likely need the help of a local professional communications company to install larger coverage paging systems.

Top 5 Pager Brands
1) Apollo Pagers: In our opinion, the best overall pager brand for alert-only, alpha, numeric, and voice pagers is Apollo. Virtually all Apollo alpha and numeric pager models are hand-programmable. This eliminates the need for costly programming devices and software. Pager programming on alpha and numeric Apollo pagers can be done quickly and easily via the buttons on the pager itself. We have found Apollo pagers to be as rugged as comparable Motorola and Unication pagers, but are typically offered at a lower cost. They are the only pager brand we know that offers most of their models in multiple color choices. Alert-only models are available with belt clips, with advertising slots (paddle pagers), and in the popular coaster style. Their numeric pagers are available in top-read and side-read versions. Their alpha pagers are available in 1-line, 2-line, and 4-line display versions. Of the top 3 pager brands, they are the only one that also offers a full selection of voice pagers. All Apollo Voice Pager models include stored voice, whereas Motorola Voice Pagers offer stored voice as an upgrade option.
2) Unication Pagers: Several years ago Unication purchased the rights to manufature the Motorola Advisor Gold and Advisor Elite pagers under their own brand name. These were Motorola's most popular alpha pagers, and continue to be Unication's best-selling pagers. Most of the electronics from the original Motorola design have been retained. These pagers are known for their ruggedness and intuitive menus. Unlike the Apollo pagers, Unication pagers require a programming cradle when changes are needed. Unications are available in both alpha and numeric versions. All pager models are available in black only.
3) Daviscomms Pagers: Most Daviscomms models are designed to resemble the original Motorola pagers, and they even use the "Bravo" branding that for years was associated with Motorola pagers. You will get the look and feel of a Motorola pager usually at a lower price than for a comparable Unication. Some users have indicated that they find the menus are more difficult to navigate than other brands. All pager models are available in black only.
4) Sun Telecom Pagers: Most Sun Telecom pager models are Flex only and are not compatible with internal paging systems. They do offer one 6-line alphanumeric model and one coaster model. All pager models are well-built, functional, and easy to use. As far as we know, all models require a programming station for setting the basic paging parameters.
5) Long Range Systems (LRS) specializes in complete paging systems for restaurants and the hospitality industry. Their coaster-style pager is actually square, but is well designed and is available in multiple colors. They also provide mobile phone paging apps.

Where to buy - Top 2 In-house Pager Providers
If you already have a paging system in place and need to purchase additional or replacement pagers, you will find the best pricing and excellent customer service through these providers:
  • Prime Access, website name WeSellPagers.com, sells all three top pager brand names at the lowest prices we have found. They operate as factory sales reps for Apollo pagers, and orders are shipped directly from the factory to the customer. The entire factory stock is at their disposal, and speed of delivery is unparalleled. Most orders are shipped same or next day. Prime Access also sells new Daviscomms and Unication pagers at well below retail pricing, plus they have very competitive pricing on refurbished pagers and beepers. Prime Access also carries an assortment of transmitters to fit most needs. Although most transmitters can be purchased pre-programmed to be plug and play, you may want to customize your system by doing some of your own programming. They accept credit cards, check-by-fax, COD, and net terms on approval. They have been in business since the late 90s. Customer feedback shows an extremely high level of customer satisfaction.
    Phone (877) 333-1003   Email sales@wesellpagers.com
  • American Cellular, website name aciamericancellularinc.com, is an authorized distributor of the three top pager brands. They sell mostly Unication and Daviscomms pagers at competitive pricing. Many models are stocked in-house and shipping is usually within one business day unless the item is not in stock. They accept credit card, advance payment, and COD orders. Customers report excellent customer service experiences.
    Phone (412) 318-1818   Email jsisk@americancellularinc.net

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      Wide-area Paging (Paging Service) View full screen

Paging Service Buyer's Guide

Wide area paging is provided by paging service carriers, and the signals are transmitted by a system of towers. Each tower can cover up to about a 25 mile radius, but the range is often affected by terrain and building structures. Remember that no matter what covergae the service provider offers, the actual coverage is dictated by the location of the towers and the local terrain. Before ordering paging service it is wise to check the coverage area map to determine if you will get service in the areas you generally travel in.

There are two US nationwide paging carriers: USA Mobility and American Messaging. Each of these carriers transmits on different 900 MHz frequencies using a digital coding format called Flex, which was originally developed by Motorola. They also support 2way paging using a coding format called Reflex. Many, if not most, paging service customers that utilize one of these nationwide paging systems actually purchase their service from resellers. Very often the retail pricing offered by resellers is less than that offered by the carrier. We have also found that resellers will usually provide a better customer service experience for end users.

One-way Paging
When you sign up for one way (alpha or numeric) paging service, you can opt for local (can be anything from city-wide to state-wide, to a small region that covers multiple states), state-wide, regional (northeast or southeast for example), or nation-wide coverage. You can also opt for a local or toll-freee number. Another option is voicemail, and this comes in many varieties based n length of messages, number of messages held, and length of message retention. Usually anything more than local service with a local pager number will cost more money per month.

One-way Pagerless Paging
Yes, you are reading that correctly. There is a new service offered by MySecretaryUSA that provides nationwide numeric paging service with voicemail for only $6.95/mo. Alphanumeric service adds $3 per month. Numeric and alpha pages are sent directly to your cellphone as a text message and/or any email address. When a voicemail message is left in the mailbox, you receive notification in the same way. So there is no pager to carry around, no coverage issues to worry about, plus all the benefits of having a private pager number with voicemail. The paging service is also accessible via standard SMS texting (text to the pager number) and email. So wherever you have cell phone coverage, you have paging service coverage as well. Any missed pages will automatically be delivered to your cell phone once you regain coverage. The paging service is unlimited, but keep in mind that each page adds to your cellphone text count.

Two-way Paging
Two-way (or 2way) paging on either of the two mentioned nationwide carriers allows for receiving and sending text messages and, as far as we know, is always provided with nationwide coverage. When SMS is added to two-way service, you may send text directly to text-enabled cell phones and other texting devices. Without SMS, you can still send to a cell phone but you would need to know the cell phone's email address. Here is a handy list for finding the email address of most cell phones provided you know the carrier. You may find some one way service plans that include unlimited paging, but most 2way plans are usage-sensitive, meaning that the more you use it in terms of quantity of messages, the more you pay.

Best Pagers For Use with Paging Service
When you choose which paging provider to go with, they will offer a few different pager models based on the type of paging service you want. You can buy pagers from other sources such as eBay, but beware that due to the variuos frequencies and coding formats, you may end up with a pager you can't use. We highly recommend that you choose a pager that is offered by the provider based on their recommendation or features you would like. Many providers will offer used or refurbished pagers as well as new pagers. Do not be afraid to order a used or refurbished pager as these will generally work as well as a new pager, but may be a lot less expensive. Remember that Motorola stopped manufacturing pagers several years ago, so if you find a provider offering new Motorola pagers, it is highly unlikely that the pager would actually be new, and this would tell you something about the character of this provider. If you would prefer a new one-way pager, we recommend Apollo, Unication, Daviscomms, and Sun Telecom (in that order). There are still some new Axess Stories and Daviscomms BR501s offered. These are discontinued models but are excellent pagers. If you are looking for a two-way pager, refurbished Motorola T900s ($25 - $39 thru MySecretaryUSA) are the most popular, but the Unication M90 (retail $149, refurb $49 thru MySecretaryUSA) is a new-improved rechargeable version of that pager with more power, better display, and extended range & features. There is also a new Sun Telecom ST902 ($580 thru DirectPage which includes a year of service) 2way pager which again is similar to Motorola T900 but with a 6-line display vs. 4 lines on the T900, but still uses an AA alkaline battery and is not rechargeable.

Where to buy - Best Paging Service Providers
Finding the best paging service rate is tricky because many providers will offer free pagers, but add activation fees, cancellation fees, exorbitant shipping fees, or require that you sign up and pay for a year of service in advance. Others will have good base rates but charge excessively for upgrades. We have done the math for you and have located what we feel are the lowest prices with the most flexibility.

One-way Paging
  • Pager World offers numeric service at $9.95/mo. which includes one free upgrade (voicemail, numeric retrieval, or statewide coverage). Alphanumeric service is just $1.00 more per month. Reseller of USA Mobility. Order on-line and pay via PayPal subscription.
    Pros: First month of airtime is free, No activation fee, No cancellation fee, Pay month-by-month, Free shipping.
    Cons: Only one pager model is offered (Axess Story) for both alpha and numeric service, but it is an excellent pager.
  • MySecretaryUSA offers a nice selection of refurbished and new pagers.They also have lower over-all pricing of all the on-line paging service providers we could find.They are one if not the only on-line provider that offers pagers in various colors. They offer numeric, alphanumeric, and 2way paging service as well as Pagerless paging service (pages are received on your cell phone). All paging service plans include free voicemail. Reseller of USA Mobility and American Messaging. Numeric: $10.95/mo., alpha: $11.95/mo., alpha pagerless: $9.95/mo., 2way: $14.95/mo. - $29.95/mo. Order on-line and pay via PayPal subscription or credit card.
    Pros: Good pager choices, Free shipping, No activation fee, No cancellation fee, Pay month-by-month. Excellent and fast customer service - Phone 800-387-0654 (voicemail).
    Cons: None to report.

One-way Pagerless Paging
  • MySecretaryUSA stands out as the leading provider of pagerless paging (see above for details). They call it Paging-to-Cellphone and offer a 7-day free trial. Starting at $6.95/mo. after the 7-day trial. Order on-line and pay with credit card.
    Pros: Least expensive paging service, alpha and numeric service, no pager cost, includes voicemail, nationwide coverage, assured delivery of all pages. Excellent customer service.
    Cons: Text rates on your cell phone apply. We recommend an unlimited text plan.

Two-way Paging
  • SuperPager sells only one model pager, the Motorola T900 2way pager in a choice of 3 colors. Although the T900 is the most popular 2way pager, it is inherently a bit weak in transmit power due to the use of an internal NiCd battery pack that powers the transmitter and is recharged by the replaceable AA battery. The NiCd battery simply cannot supply the high current need of the transmitter. The SuperPager people have developed a super capacitor replacement for the NiCd battery that charges in a fraction of the NiCd charging time, and delivers nearly twice the current and about triple the power of the NiCd battery.This give their T900 pager about the same power as the more expensive Unication M90. $49.95 includes the first month of airtime, then $16.99/mo. Reseller of USA Mobility. Monthly auto-pay via credit card.
    Pros: The most popular 2way pager with more power. The best-priced unlimited 2way paging plans. Includes free voicemail. Helpful customer service.
    Cons: Only one pager model to choose from.
  • MySecretaryUSA is currently carrying the Motorola T900 and the Unication M90 2way pagers. They sell the T900 at a discounted price ($24.95) in black only with cosmetic blemishes. You can get one in a choice of color with no blemishes for $39.95. The top-ranked M90 is $49.95. 2way paging plans start at $14.95/mo. (125 messages) to $29.95/mo. (unlimited messaging). Some plans include free executive voicemail (highest level of voicemail). Reseller of USA Mobility. Monthly auto-pay via PayPal.
    Pros: Best choice of 2way pager models. The best-priced unlimited 2way paging plans (comparable to SuperPager). Excellent and fast customer service - Phone 800-387-0654 (voicemail).
    Cons: None to report.
  • PagersDirect offers a new nationwide 2-way paging device called the Zipit® Now™. With the Zipit® Now™ not only can you send and receive email messages, text messages and receive numeric pages, but the Zipit® Now™ service also features a web portal that allows the administrator to send messages to an individual or as a group plus it offers robust reporting that will show all messages, the time they were sent, the time they were received and also the time they were read by the holder of the Zipit® Now™ device. The Zipit® Now™ utilizes the nation's largest 3g data network as well as Wi-Fi networks and will automatically switch between the two depending on reception. More information as well as online ordering is available at PagersDirect regarding the Zipit® Now™
    Pros: You can purchase a Zipit® Now™ 2-way device or use a smartphone app.
  • Cons: If you use the smartphone app, data rates on your cell phone apply. We recommend an unlimited data plan.
Other Paging Carriers
In addition to the two nationwide carriers, there are also some local carriers that will provide service witihn a state or region of the country. These smaller carriers may offer service on any of the standard frequencies in VHF, UHF or 900 MHz. We have found that most of these smaller carriers use the pocsag coding format rather than Flex, and we have not found any that offer 2way paging. Here is a link to another website that has compiled a list of paging carriers throughout the US. Please note that many of the companies listed no longer exist or have been bought by one of the major carriers. We do not know when this list was last updated. We suggest you use this list only if the recommended reseller or carrier cannot provide coverage where you need it.