Japan’s final pager service to end


This 1998 file photo shows a worker installing an oversized copy of a pager on a ...
This 1998 file photo shows a worker installing an oversized copy of a pager on a billboard in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

In Summary

  • Tokyo Telemessage, the only telecommunications company still operating the service, said it would terminate its pager offerings in September 2019 due to lack of demand.
  • The company said the number of users has fallen to below 1,500, despite the fact that it stopped producing the actual devices 20 years ago.
  • Japan may have a reputation as a high-tech mecca famous for electronic toilets and robots but certain seemingly outdated technology pieces of technology are popular, including fax machines.

Japan is losing its final pager service decades after the technology was rendered obsolete by cell phones.

Tokyo Telemessage, the only telecommunications company still operating the service, said it would terminate its pager offerings in September 2019 due to lack of demand.

The company said the number of users has fallen to below 1,500, despite the fact that it stopped producing the actual devices 20 years ago.

Pagers were popular in Japan and the rest of the world in the 1990s, before cell phones became widely available to the public. Tokyo Telemessage said its subscriber base peaked in 1996 at 1.2 million.

For those too young to have ever used one, pagers are a personal radio device that is used to receive messages sent via a switchboard. When the pager beeps or buzzes the owner usually needs to find a phone to return the message.

It’s not clear who still uses them but Japan Times says pagers are popular with people working in hospitals because they don’t emit electromagnetic waves.

A reluctance to part with the old technology may also be due to Japan’s aging population. The country is considered a “super-aged” nation, defined as one where more than 20% of the population is over 65.

This year new government figures showed the number of children fell in Japan for the 37th year in a row.

Japan may have a reputation as a high-tech mecca famous for electronic toilets and robots but certain seemingly outdated technology pieces of technology are popular, including fax machines.

The country’s minister of cybersecurity is perhaps the most telling example — last month, he admitted to reporters that he doesn’t use a computer.

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