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CES REPORT: Cellulars, pagers to go mainstream

A panel here today said that cellular phones and pagers will become a mainstream way to communicate with family and friends in the near future. Future pagers include voice devices that act as pocket answering machines.

LAS VEGAS--Sometime in the near future, cellular phone and paging vendors expect most consumers to buy wireless communications devices just to keep in touch with family and friends.

At a panel discussion here, representatives from Motorola, AT&T, Paging Network, and Sony Wireless Communications outlined plans to bring pagers and cellular phones to everyday consumers.

The market for such devices has grown 30 percent each year since 1989, said Larry Conlee, vice president of Motorola's advanced messaging systems group.

And it's not necessarily an either/or proposition between cell phones and pagers. According to a recent poll taken by market research group BIS, of 200 users who carry both pagers and cell phones, 90 percent would use both even if pagers supported longer messages than they do currently.

The next wave of paging will be voice devices that act as pocket answering machines, according to panelists. Motorola's offering, dubbed Tenor, is due later this year, said Conlee. Paging Network will introduce a similar product, called Voice Now, during the second half of this year.

Demand for pagers is quickly spreading from business users who are required to carry the devices to consumers who just want to have them. Business use for pagers declined from 54 percent to 35 percent between 1993 and 1995, according to research presented at the panel.

Cellular phone use will continue to boom as well, from 24 million users in 1994 to an estimated 60 million users by the year 2000.

To make cellular phones more attractive, manufacturers will have to make the phones much easier to use, said officials.

Future wireless phone systems will enable users to move from car to home wirelessly using the same telephone device. These phones will become common once national digital phone networks become implemented.