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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 (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".
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:
Free Hit Counters
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.
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 (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 Pagerless Paging
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.