The end of the pager era is nigh in Japan after five decades as the country's last provider announced on Monday it would be scrapping its service next year.
Tokyo Telemessage, the only pager service provider left standing, said it had decided to terminate its service to Tokyo and three neighbouring regions in September 2019 describing the development as "very regrettable".
"Pagers were once a huge hit... but the number of users is now down to 1,500," the company said in a statement, adding it had stopped manufacturing the hardware device 20 years ago.
Pagers known as "poke-beru" (pocket bell) in Japan became very popular in the 1990s especially among high school girls obsessed by their primitive text messaging functions.
At break time, long queues of high school girls would form outside public phones as they frantically punched in numbers which were then converted into short messages to classmates and boyfriends.
50 years after pagers’ Japanese debut, there’s only one company in the entire nation that’s still offering service: Tokyo Telemessage, based in the capital’s Shinbashi neighborhood. Its 1,500 or so loyal customers, many of whom work in the medical industry, have continued using their pagers for reasons including their lack electromagnetic wave transmission and reliability inside buildings even where smartphone signals are spotty. However, as part of a gradual phase-out, Tokyo Telemessage stopped accepting applications for new service contracts five years ago, and it now has so few clients that its pager operations are no longer a viable business venture, and will instead be shifting its focus to wireless communications technology for disaster response teams.