Vodafone UK is exiting the pager business, bringing the curtain down on nearly 70 years of operator-provided paging services in the country.

The operator agreed a deal to sell its pager division to professional services company Capita – a move a Vodafone company representative told Mobile World Live will see all of the operator’s remaining pager customer base “transfer to Capita’s wholly-owned business, PageOne Communications”.

Because the deal will leave PageOne as the only paging service provider in the UK, the transaction must be approved by the Competition and Markets Authority.

Vodafone’s representative explained it decided to sell because the company believes the “market is best supported by one provider”, and “transferring the business to PageOne will ensure continuation of service”.

The Capita subsidiary bills itself as operating the UK’s biggest and most advanced pager network, with coverage of 98 per cent of the population.

Vodafone provided pager services to 1,000 users in hospitals, emergency services including the fire brigade and coastguard, and companies in the transport and utilities sectors, Financial Times (FT) reported. Paging services also have a loyal following among birdwatchers, the newspaper said.

While precise details on the sale price were not disclosed, the FT stated the sum agreed was nominal. The companies did not indicate when they expect the competition regulator to make its decision on the transaction.

Long history
The first devices were used by doctors in 1950, and the popularity of pagers peaked in the mid-1990s, financial news website ThisIsMoney reported.

UK operators Orange and O2 UK ditched their pager services in 2002 and 2003 respectively, the FT said. The newspaper noted O2’s network was first established by BT in the late 1970s, and the infrastructure was a key element in the early days of the operator’s Cellnet mobile service – the predecessor of O2.

Vodafone was PageOne’s last remaining rival in the pager business. The latter was originally established by Cable & Wireless and Motorola in the mid-1980s, and was acquired by Capita in 2014.