Paging Mr. Smith, paging Mr. Smith ...
Hello for 1-98
By: Mike Lipshultz

Paging Mr. Smith, paging Mr. Smith ...

This month we give you the facts on paging--Numeric vs. Alphanumeric.

In the world of pagers there are two types of service: "numeric" paging or "alphanumeric" paging. Numeric is easy to talk about and understand. It is the most basic of paging services. On a numeric pager only numbers are transmitted; you cannot send letters or symbols. You can transmit a telephone number or other prearranged code. A very common code is to insert 911 following the phone number to indicate emergency or urgent. With a numeric pager you are assigned a telephone number to call to have pages sent to you. The caller hears a tone and enter the number(s) they wish to send. After they hang up the numbers they put in, appear on the pager. Be aware that all numeric paging must be done with a touch tone phone.

Pagers range in physical size and capacity (number of messages the unit will retain before it starts to drop saved calls when new ones come in). Purchase a pager with higher memory capacity if you think you will need to hold on to your pages. Many new style pagers are of the "Flex" type. All that means is that the radio carriers (companies transmitting the information) can transmit to more pages on a given frequency. Flex pagers are no more accurate then non-flex pagers. Although most all pagers can be programmed to work with any paging service, be sure to check and ask questions. Some pagers will work only with one or two of the major players in the paging game.

After getting a pager, the next thing you need to make your pager work is a carrier or dispatching service. This is the company that assigns you your ‘Pager" number (the telephone number you call to send pages to the pager). This company transmits the information over radio waves to your pager. The main difference in carriers is the area of coverage they provide and the number of pages per month for the amount charged. To chose a carrier, determine how widespread of an area you will need to be able to be paged. You can get service from worldwide or limit the area to cover your town and a few adjacent cities. The wider the coverage area, the more you can expect to pay. Next determine how many pages you expect to receive. Most paging companies charge little if anything extra for unlimited numeric paging. You should also know that there are only a handful of companies that really transmit the radio signal to your pager. Most of the paging companies are reselling the services of the big paging radio carriers. Shop around to find the deal that works best for you.

In shopping for the paging service, it is not uncommon to be offered a "free" pager from a paging service. Make sure you understand the terms and conditions attached to the free pager. How long must you maintain the service contract? How much per month? What happens if you disconnect early? Get it all in writing. Remember, no one will give you a free pager unless they can cover the cost under the contract..

Alphanumeric paging is a little more complicated. Alphanumeric pagers work much like a numeric pager with the differences in the units being display size as well as the ability to display letters (the Alpha part). However, Alpha pages, cannot just be simply input with a touch tone phone. To send an Alpha page, you need a computer or a custom terminal and a service or dispatcher to take the incoming call, type it up and relay it by modem to the radio carrier. The radio carrier transmits the message to the pager where you can read the complete message off you pager. So In addition to the pager and a radio carrier, as you can see, you also need someone to take the call and type the message. This can be someone in your home or office using inexpensive software to take and send the message to the radio carrier, or it can be an outside service. Most of the time it is an outside service taking the call and sending the information to your pager.

In shopping for alpha paging service, be very careful about comparing pricing plans from different companies. Some companies can both dispatch or take the message and transmit it. In other cases it takes one company to dispatch and another to transmit. On getting pricing information, always get it in writing. Ask them to specify if the charges are for dispatching, transmitting or both.

Most plans give you so many calls per month. Find out what the company you are talking to considers as a "call". Some companies count a call every time they answer your line, whether they give out information or send a page. Some companies charge one call to answer, another call to deliver information, and another call to page. With a company that charges you a "call" for each thing, one real call can add up to a charge for 3 or 4 calls. Also some companies count an extra call for longer messages. There are companies that answer and process one call as a single call. That is if they answer your phone it is only one call charged. If on that call they give out information and send out a long message, it is still only one call. Look for companies that charge this way. It is your better deal in most cases.

Make sure you find out about the monthly charges for "air time" from the radio carrier if your going with a dispatch only service. By adding the "air time" monthly charges to the dispatch charges you can see the total cost. Most dispatching services sell plans priced as 25, 50, 100, or 200, call plans. Be careful of exceeding your allotted calls. Extra call charges run from $0.25 per call to $1.00 per call. Extra charges can run up fast. Make sure if you sign up for a larger plan then you need, can you switch to a lower plan at no extra charge. Go with a company that will help you monitor your usage for the first month or so. You may need to change your calling plan to avoid those extra charges.

Some companies take your calls live and talk directly to the caller. Other companies send you the message from a tape. The caller gets a voice mail. They leave a voice message which is transcribed to your pager by the service. Paging from voice mail, is cheaper. Personally I do not like it. The reason is simple. Ever get voice mail messages you can’t understand? With a live service the typist can re-ask the caller if they do not understand something. In any event, nothing is mistake proof. Most live services do tape their calls should you need them to check the information sent to you.

Ask about extra services. For an additional fee, some companies will fax you a daily record of your calls. Personally I think this is great. I can keep an eye on my usage and know if I missed a page. You can miss paged messages due to a dead battery, turned it off, forgot it, out of range, etc. Check the charges for this extra service as it can range from under $10.00 to over $30.00 per month. Another great extra is having that personal touch. The phone is answered in your company name. The service can give out your company name, address, fax number, hours of service, etc. This can make a small one person shop look much more professional.

Personally I prefer alphanumeric paging. I never need to call in to pick up the message. I know who called, what they needed, and how important it is to get back to them, all without picking up the phone. Shop around and find the service you like.

I found the best deal for me was to go with a different dispatch service, and radio carrier. I am located in Glendale, California but I went with a dispatch service located in Lake Elsinore, California. Why? Simple, for my needs they have the best rates, and I have never been disappointed in the quality of their work. I had two other companies before finding Inland Answering Services, Inc. If you are so inclined give them a call and talk to Greg at (800) 955-8025. Let him know Mike told you to call. I believe they will give you straight answers to any questions you may have. Special Update as of 08-24-98 We can no longer RECOMMEND Inland Answering Services, Inc. We now recommend HealthGuard Answering Service 1999 Mowry Avenue Suite D-1 Fremont Ca. 94568,
Phone: 510-796-0708.

So what can you expect to pay in the real world? It really depend on the service and the company you use. With Inland, I get the custom package (they act like my secretary), and I have copies of my pages faxed every day. On the 100 call plan my bills run about $60.00 to $70.00 per month. This is for dispatch only.

We strongly suggest that a business person who wants to impress his clients, respond to the client’s needs and improve his business, should throw away the numeric only pager in favor of an alpha numeric pager. Think about it. Do you want a phone number or do you want a message?

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Copyright 1997 ~BizNet OnLine Magazine
Last modified: November 08, 2002