About

Commercial paging is a Commercial Mobile Radio Service (CMRS) and is thus, 1) provided for profit, 2) interconnected to the public switched network, and 3) available to the public.   Traditional commercial paging service consists of one-way data communications sent to a mobile device that alerts the user when it arrives. The communication could consist of a phone number for the user to call, a short message, or an information update. Other licensees in addition to paging carriers offer paging services. For instance, most digital mobile telephone handsets include a paging component or Caller ID feature that allows users to view the phone number of someone who has called them. Narrowband PCS licensees offer more advanced two-way paging type services.  

Commercial paging may operate in the 35-36, 43-44, 152-159, and 454-460 MHz bands (referred to as the "Lower Band") and the 929 and 931 MHz bands (referred to as the "Upper Band") (refer to the Band Plan in the Data section) and after 1997 was geographically licensed based on either Economic Area (EA) or Market Economic Area (MEA) Market Area designations. You can read more about the history of licensing commercial paging below.  

The rules governing commercial paging are found in the Code of Federal Regulations, Volume 47, Part 1 and Part 22 (and Part 90 for 929 MHz channels).  

Background

Commercial paging operates in the 35-36, 43-44, 152-159, and 454-460 MHz bands (sometimes referred to as the "Lower Band") and the 929 and 931 MHz bands (sometimes referred to as the "Upper Band") (refer to band plan). Two types of commercial paging licensees operate within these bands, common carrier paging (referred to as CCP or 931 MHz) and private carrier paging (referred to as PCP or 929 MHz).  

The Commission first allocated spectrum for CCP services in 1949. CCP operates in all but the 929 MHz band. Historically, a CCP channel was assigned to a single licensee in each area on an exclusive basis. Licensees' protected service areas were based on predicted coverage of the transmitters in their systems, and licensees were required to apply for additional transmitter locations when expanding their systems. On all CCP allocations other than 931 MHz, applicants had to specify the channels they wanted. In the 931 MHz band, applications were not channel specific and the Commission had the discretion to assign a channel different from that requested. In major markets, the number of applications often exceeded the number of available channels, resulting in all applications being treated as mutually exclusive. There was a 60-day period for filing 931 MHz mutual exclusive applications and 30 days for all other CCP applications. Lotteries were used to choose which applications would be granted. In 1982, the Commission allocated 40 new channels in the 931 MHz band exclusively for use by CCP operators and dedicated three of these channels for use by nationwide systems.  

PCP was established by the Commission as a service distinct from CCP and prior to 1993 was subject to different regulatory treatment. PCP operates in the 152- 159, 454-460 and 929 MHz bands. Initially, PCP was authorized on specified channels within each private radio service category, with licensees authorized either to operate systems for their own internal use or to provide service to limited categories of eligible users. In 1982, the Commission allocated 40 channels in the 929 MHz band for PCP, with some channels to be licensed for internal-use systems (30 channels) and others for PCP systems that could provide commercial paging service to eligible users (10 channels) under 47 CFR Part 90. As demand grew, the Commission responded by allowing PCP operators access to the pool of 929 MHz channels set aside to meet the internal communications needs of Business Radio Service eligibles, and expanding the classes of users eligible to obtain service from PCP licensees and paging licensees in the Business Radio Service. PCP channels were licensed on a shared basis. Since multiple licenses could be granted for the same channel, these applications were not subject to mutual exclusivity selection procedures.     
 

Transition to Geographic Licensing

In 1993, the Omnibus Reconciliation Act amended the Communications Act to divide all mobile services into two categories, Commercial Mobile Radio Services (CMRS) and Private Mobile Radio Services (PMRS), and mandated that "substantially similar" mobile services receive comparable regulatory treatment. The Commission determined that PCP and CCP were substantially similar and that geographic area licensing should be considered for both services. As a result, the Commission allowed PCP operators to provide service to the public on virtually the same unrestricted basis as CCP operators. In a separate proceeding ("PCP Exclusivity Order") the Commission also established a mechanism for exclusive licensing on 35 of the 40 929 MHz PCP channels in order to encourage the development of wide- area paging systems. The 5 remaining channels, while allocated on a shared basis, along with lower band shared paging channels may be licensed to offer either commercial paging services or private, internal-use paging services. Only approximately 10 percent of the total allocated paging spectrum continues to be licensed on a shared basis.  

Prior to 1997, both CCP and PCP paging operators chose the areas they sought to serve by applying for licenses on a site-by-site basis. Thus, the boundary of the licensee's service area was derived from the composite service areas of existing base stations. In 1996, the Commission began to consider geographic licensing of paging channels. While the Commission considered this change, it established interim licensing rules in order to prevent a flood of speculative applications and an increase in opportunities for fraudulent investment schemes. The interim licensing rules suspended acceptance of new applications for paging channels (except for nationwide exclusive channels and for private, internal-use systems) pending resolution of fraud-related issues, but allowed incumbent licensees to add sites within 40 miles of operating sites. In a subsequent modification of the interim rules, incumbents operating on shared channels were not subject to the 40 mile limitation.  

In 1997, the Commission adopted geographic licensing for exclusive channels which would give greater flexibility to licensees and greater ease of administration for the FCC. The Commission also adopted competitive bidding rules to resolve mutually exclusive applications. The remaining shared channels were not converted to exclusive channels nor to geographic area licensing. Nationwide 929 MHz and 931 MHz geographic area licenses were granted without competitive bidding. The Commission determined that all mutually exclusive applications for non-nationwide 931 MHz channels and exclusive non-nationwide 929 MHz channels would be subject to competitive bidding for geographic area licenses for 51 Major Economic Areas (MEAs). All remaining CCP channels (i.e. 35-36 MHz, 43-44 MHz, 152-159 MHz, and 454-460 MHz) would be subject to competitive bidding for geographic area licenses in 172 Economic Areas (EAs) for each channel. As a result, all pending mutually exclusive applications for paging licenses (other than applications on nationwide and shared channels) filed with the Commission on or before July 31, 1996 were dismissed. All non-mutually exclusive applications filed with the Commission on or before July 31, 1996 were processed.  

Incumbent site-by-site licensees were permitted to either continue operating under existing authorizations or trade in their site-specific licenses for a single system-wide license demarcated by the aggregate of the interference contours around each of the incumbents' contiguous sites operating on the same channel. Incumbent licensees are permitted to add a "fill-in" site or relocate existing facilities provided there is no expansion of the existing composite interference contour.  

A fill-in application seeks to add a transmitter to a station, in the same area and transmitting on the same channel or channel block as previously authorized transmitters but does not expand the existing composite interference contour. Generally, a fill-in is established to improve reception in dead spots. All fill- ins must be filed on FCC Form 601. Those above Line A must be filed on Form 601 and receive coordination clearance from Industry Canada prior to operation (refer to the International Agreement in the Operations section).  

In 2001, the Commission lifted the interim licensing rules for shared paging channels after adding language to FCC Form 601 warning applicants that failure of a licensee to meet construction or coverage requirements would result in termination of the license. The Commission determined that adding such language would be generally helpful to applicants in all services and might also help deter fraud. The lifting of the freeze enables non-incumbent applicants to again file for commercial operation on the lower band shared paging channels and the five 929 MHz shared paging channels.

Data

The FCC maintains a number of reports and databases that compile data on licensees. This information may be used to research ownership, buildout, and financial operating results of licensees.  

 
The WTB Auctions and Industry Analysis Division produces an annual Commercial Mobile Radio Services (CMRS) Competition Report to Congress that includes coverage maps, subscribers, and revenues for publicly-traded wireless carriers.
Ownership Search provides access to Ownership Disclosure Information that has been filed within the Universal Licensing System (ULS). You can search by filer information, such as licensee name, or by filing dates.
The Universal Licensing System (ULS) database downloads for specific wireless radio services are available as zip files and are updated weekly. To stay abreast of the daily changes to the databases, you may also download daily transaction files.
Technical, geographical, and licensee/applicant data can be obtained using the Universal Licensing System (ULS) search capabilities. ULS allows you to perform searches based on numerous criteria, including licensee/applicant name, call sign, radio service code, market area, channel block, FCC Registration Number (FRN), license or application status, and auction identification.
Search a database of Daily Digest entries for FCC documents posted to the FCC web site since March 1996.
Research any document in the Electronic Comment Filing System (ECFS) including non-electronic documents that have been scanned into the system from 1992 onward.

Band Plan

Commercial paging may operate in the 35-36, 43-44, 152-159, and 454-460 MHz bands (referred to as the "Lower Band") and the 929 and 931 MHz bands (referred to as the "Upper Band")  

Band Plan Icon
Upper Paging Bands (pdf)
Band Plan Icon
Lower Paging Bands (pdf)
 

35 MHz Lower Band Paging: Unpaired Channels

Channel Center Frequency (MHz) Channel Center Frequency (MHz) Channel Center Frequency (MHz) Channel Center Frequency (MHz)
CA 35.20 CE 35.30 CI 35.46 CM 35.58
CB 35.22 CF 35.34 CJ 35.50 CN 35.60
CC 35.24 CG 35.38 CK 35.54 CO 35.62
CD 35.26 CH 35.42 CL 35.56 CP 35.66

43 MHz Lower Band Paging: Unpaired Channels

Channel Center Frequency (MHz) Channel Center Frequency (MHz) Channel Center Frequency (MHz) Channel Center Frequency (MHz)
DA 43.20 DE 43.30 DI 43.46 DM 43.58
DB 43.22 DF 43.34 DJ 43.50 DN 43.60
DC 43.24 DG 43.38 DK 43.54 DO 43.62
DD 43.26 DH 43.42 DL 43.56 DP 43.66

152 and 158 MHz Lower Bands Paging: Unpaired Channels

Channel Center Frequency (MHz) Channel Center Frequency (MHz)
EA 152.24 EC 158.10
EB 152.84 ED 158.70

152 and 158 MHz Lower Bands Paging: Paired Channels

Channel Center Frequency (MHz) Channel Center Frequency (MHz)
FA 152.03 / 158.49 FJ 152.57 / 157.83
FB 152.06 / 158.52 FK 152.60 / 157.86
FC 152.09 / 158.55 FL 152.63 / 157.89
FD 152.12 / 158.58 FM 152.66 / 157.92
FE 152.15 / 158.61 FN 152.69 / 157.95
FF 152.18 / 158.64 FO 152.72 / 157.98
FG 152.21 / 158.67 FP 152.75 / 158.01
FH 152.51 / 157.77 FQ 152.78 / 158.04
FI 152.54 / 157.80 FR 152.81 / 158.07

 

454 and 459 MHz Lower Bands Paging: Paired Channels

Channel Center Frequency (MHz) Channel Center Frequency (MHz)
GA 454.025 / 459.025 GN 152.57 / 157.83
GB 454.050 / 459.050 GO 152.60 / 157.86
GC 454.075 / 459.075 GP 152.63 / 157.89
GD 454.100 / 459.100 GQ 152.66 / 157.92
GE 454.125 / 459.125 GR 152.69 / 157.95
GF 454.150 / 459.150 GS 152.72 / 157.98
GG 454.175 / 459.175 GT 152.75 / 158.01
GH 454.200 / 459.200 GU 152.78 / 158.04
GI 454.225 / 459.225 GV 152.81 / 158.07
GJ 454.250 / 459.250 GX 152.72 / 157.98
GK 454.275 / 459.275 GY 152.75 / 158.01
GL 454.300 / 459.300 GZ 152.81 / 158.07
GM 454.325 / 459.325    

 

 929 MHz Upper Band Paging: Unpaired Channels

Channel Center Frequency (MHz) Channel Center Frequency (MHz)
A 929.0125 G 929.4625
B 929.1125 H 929.6375
C 929.2375 I 929.6875
D 929.3125 J 929.7875
E 929.3875 K 929.9125
F 929.4375 L 929.9625

 

931 MHz Upper Band Paging: Unpaired Channels

Channel Center Frequency (MHz) Channel Center Frequency (MHz) Channel Center Frequency (MHz)
AA 931.0125 AN 929.4625 BA 931.6625
AB 931.0375 AO 929.6375 BB 931.6875
AC 931.0625 AP 929.6875 BC 931.7125
AD 931.0875 AQ 929.7875 BD 931.7375
AE 931.1125 AR 929.9125 BE 931.7625
AF 931.1375 AS 929.9625 BF 931.7875
AG 931.1625 AT 929.4625 BG 931.8125
AH 931.1875 AU 929.6375 BH 931.8375
AI 931.2125 AV 929.6875 BI 931.8625
AJ 931.2375 AW 929.7875 BJ 931.9625
AK 931.2625 AX 929.9125 BK 931.9875
AL 931.2875 AY 929.9625    
AM 931.3125 AZ 929.9625    

 

Market Areas

Prior to the adoption of geographic licensing in 1997, non-nationwide and exclusive channels licenses were granted on a site-by-site basis. Since 1997, non-nationwide, exclusive paging licenses have been assigned on the basis of Economic Areas (EAs) and Major Economic Areas (MEAs). In 1997, 25 nationwide geographic licenses were awarded. Shared channel licenses continue to be granted on a site-by-site basis.

Maps & Cross References
 
EA Map (pdf)
Economic Areas
 
MEA (B) Map (pdf)
Major Economic Areas (Basic)

Licensing

In 2000, the Commission held its first commercial paging auction. In Auction 26, the FCC offered 2,499 Upper Band Major Economic Area ("MEA") licenses. In 2001, the Commission auctioned 14,000 lower band Economic Area ("EA") licenses and the 1,514 MEA licenses in Auction 40 that remained unsold from Auction 26. In 2003, the Commission auctioned 8,874 lower band EA licenses and 1,328 upper band MEA licenses that remained unsold from Auction 40. You can read more about the history of licensing commercial paging (See About section).

Licensing Process

  1. Spectrum Auction
    The FCC conducts a spectrum auction of one or more licenses.
     
  2. Filing Applications
    Once an auction is completed, the FCC issues a public notice announcing the winning high bidders and provides instructions regarding down payments on the licenses won as well as instructions for submitting a completed long-form Form 601 application(s) covering each license. Such applications must be filed electronically through the Universal Licensing System.
     
  3. Grant Announcements
    The FCC will then issue a public notice announcing grant of license.
     
  4. Construction/Coverage Requirements
    Once licensed, the FCC's rules require that paging licensees meet specific construction/coverage requirements.

Construction/Coverage Requirements

An MEA or EA geographic area commercial paging licensee would be required to provide coverage to one-third of the population in its area within three years of the license grant, and to two-thirds of the population within its area within five years of the license grant. In the alternative, the licensee may provide substantial service to the geographic license area within five years of license grant. (see 47 CFR 22.503 (k)(1), (2) and (3).) Construction/coverage requirements across services are also available.

 

Obtaining Spectrum

Currently, no additional paging auctions are scheduled. However, applicants interested in shared channels may apply for site-by-site authority. You may also be able to obtain a paging license(s) from a current paging licensee. Licensees may sell all or part of their licenses, subject to FCC approval, to other entities. You may also acquire a company, including its licenses.

There are several ways you may be able to obtain a paging license(s) from a current licensee. First, licensees may sell all or part of the license, subject to FCC approval, to other entities. Second, you may acquire a company, including its licenses. These transactions require Online Filing of Form 603 via the Universal Licensing System. Third, you may lease all or part of a licensee’s spectrum usage rights. Most leasing transactions require Online Filing of Form 608 via the Universal Licensing System. If you are interested in shared channels, you may apply for site-by-site authority.  

Method for Obtaining Spectrum CFR Rule Part
Assignment of Authorization
Sale of an entire license.
1.948
Partition
Sale of part of a license based on a geographic area.
22.513
Disaggregation
Sale of part of a license's spectrum.
22.513
Partition & Disaggregation
A combination of the sale of a part of a license based on geographic area containing only a part of a license's spectrum.
22.513
Spectrum Leasing
Leasing of all or a part of a licensee's spectrum usage rights associated with a license. More...
1.9000
Transfer of Control
Acquisition of a company and its assets, including its licenses.

Operations

Paging service is the transmission of coded radio signals for the purpose of activating specific pagers; such transmissions may include messages or sounds. A pager is a small radio receiver designed to be carried by a person and to give an aural, visual or tactile indication when activated by the reception of a radio signal containing its specific code. It may also reproduce sounds and/or display messages that were also transmitted. Some pagers also transmit a radio signal acknowledging that a message has been received. In order to transmit a page, the following must occur: 1) calling party dials pager number; 2) the call goes through the paging company's switch; 3) the switch broadcasts the signal through a link transmitter (or to a satellite); and 4) the transmitter receives the signal and relays it to the pager.   There are a number of issues related to operations using commercial paging spectrum. You can read more about Blocking & Jamming, International Agreements, Tower Siting and Resale.   Blocking & Jamming   The operation of transmitters designed to jam or block wireless communications is a violation of the Communications Act of 1934, as amended ("Act"). See 47 U.S.C. Sections 301, 302a, 333. The Act prohibits any person from willfully or maliciously interfering with the radio communications of any station licensed or authorized under the Act or operated by the U.S. government. 47 U.S.C. Section 333. The manufacture, importation, sale or offer for sale, including advertising, of devices designed to block or jam wireless transmissions is prohibited. 47 U.S.C. Section 302a(b). Parties in violation of these provisions may be subject to the penalties set out in 47 U.S.C. Sections 501-510. Fines for a first offense can range as high as $11,000 for each violation or imprisonment for up to one year, and the device used may also be seized and forfeited to the U.S. government.   International Agreements   The United States has signed a number of agreements delineating the technical provisions for the coordination and use of frequencies for commercial paging services along the Canadian and Mexican borders.

 
Coordination and Use of Radio Frequencies Above 30 Megacycles per Second (pdf)

Contains the amendments to the Technical Annex of the "Coordination and Use of Radio Frequencies Above 30 Megacycles per Second" to address problems related to frequency assignment and use along the Canadian border.

929/931 MHz Mexican Protocol (pdf)

In 1997, the U.S. and Mexico signed an agreement delineating the technical provisions for the coordination and use of frequencies for paging services with 120 kilometers of the common border in the 929-930 MHz and the 931-932 MHz bands.

Technical Data for Mexican Stations in the US/Mexican border area (xls - pdf)

Contains data received from the COFETEL on 9/29/2000.

Canadian Coordination for 929 and 931 MHz Paging Agreement (pdf)

Considers the sharing arrangements for the two governments in portions on the 929-932 MHz bands within 75 miles of the border. The file contains a number of historical agreements.

Amendment to Canadian Coordination for 929 and 931 MHz Paging (pdf)

There have been a number of amendments to the agreement for sharing between the U.S. and Canada that go toward issues such as frequency exchange and sharing of frequency for nationwide paging carriers.

Resale

Resellers offer service to consumers by purchasing airtime at wholesale rates from facilities- based providers and reselling it at retail prices. The Commission does not actively regulate the resale of such services, only mandates that it be allowed to occur. The Commission formerly prohibited CMRS (which includes both cellular and broadband PCS) providers from unreasonably restricting resale of their services. The sunset of this rule occured on November 24, 2002.

 

Releases

 

9/27/1999
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER ON RECONSIDERATION (FCC 99-250)
Interconnection and Resale Obligations Pertaining to Commercial Mobile Radio Services
text -  Word

 

9/26/2002
PUBLIC NOTICE (DA 02-2386)
WTB Announces Commercial Paging Website Redesign
pdf - text - Word

 

11/14/2001
ORDER (DA 01-2650)
Revision of Part 22 and Part 90 of the Commission's Rules to Facilitate Future Development of Paging Systems and Implementation of Section 309(j) of the Communications Act -- Competitive Bidding
Removed the Commission's interim licensing rules with respect to filing applications for licenses at new sites on the shared paging channels.
pdf - text - Word


2/27/2001
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER ON RECONSIDERATION (FCC 01-66)
Memorandum Opinion and Order on Reconsideration and Third Report and Order
This Memorandum Opinion and Order on Reconsideration considers petitions for reconsideration and/or clarification of various aspects of the Memorandum Opinion and Order on Reconsideration and Third Report and Order previously issued in this proceeding.
pdf - text - Word


5/24/1999
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER ON RECONSIDERATION AND THIRD REPORT AND ORDER (FCC 99-98)
Revision of Part 22 and Part 90 of the Commission's Rules to Facilitate Future Development of Paging Systems and Implementation of Section 309(j) of the Communications Act -- Competitive Bidding
Changed the geographic area licensing of 929 and 931 MHz paging from MTAs to MEAs. Clarified that spectrum will automatically revert to the geographic area licensee in all instances where a non-geographic area incumbent licensee permanently discontinues service.
text

 

2/24/1997
SECOND REPORT AND ORDER AND FURTHER NOTICE OF PROPOSED RULEMAKING (FCC 97-59)
In the Matter of Revision of Part 22 and Part 90 of the Commission's Rules to Facilitate Future Development of Paging Systems Implementation of Section 309(j) of the Communications Act - Competitive Bidding
This Order adopts rules and competitive bidding procedures for the Common Carrier Paging and 929 MHz Private Carrier Paging licensing process.
pdf

 

6/11/1996
ORDER ON RECONSIDERATION OF FIRST REPORT AND ORDER (FCC 96-260)
Revision of Part 22 and Part 90 of the Commission's Rules to Facilitate Future Development of Paging Systems and Implementation of Section 309(j) of the Communications Act -- Competitive Bidding
Allows incumbents to expand 65 kilometers (40 miles) from sites for which applications were filed as of September 30, 1995, whether or not such applications were granted prior to February 8, 1996.
text


5/10/1996
PUBLIC NOTICE (DA 96-748)
WTB Announces 929-930 MHz Paging Licensees That Have Met Construction Requirements for Nationwide Exclusivity
text

 

4/23/1996
FIRST REPORT AND ORDER (FCC 96-183)
Revision of Part 22 and Part 90 of the Commission's Rules to Facilitate Future Development of Paging Systems and Implementation of Section 309(j) of the Communications Act --Competitive Bidding
First Report and Order was adopted to allow 40-mile expansion applications to be filed. This Order allowed incumbent paging licensees on non-nationwide channels to file initial applications to add new sites to their systems. Each new site had to be located with 65 kilometers (40 miles) of an authorized and operating transmission site operated by the licensee on the same channel prior to the Notice date, February 8, 1996.
text

 

2/9/1996
NOTICE OF PROPOSED RULE MAKING (FCC 96-52)
Revision of Part 22 and Part 90 of the Commission's Rules to Facilitate Future Development of Paging Systems and Implementation of Section 309(j) of the Communications Act --Competitive Bidding
"Freeze on new applications." Suspended acceptance of new applications for paging channels (except for nationwide exclusive channels) as of the adoption date, but allowed incumbent licensees to add sites to existing systems or modify existing sites, provided that such additions or modifications do not expand the interference contour of the incumbent's existing systems. Proposed transition to geographic area licensing for Common Carrier and Private Carrier Paging channels, and competitive bidding procedures for resolving mutually exclusive applications for these licenses.
text

Bureau/Office: 

Updated: 
Monday, March 20, 2017