THE paging industry in Hongkong has come a long way since its beginnings in the mid-1970s. Today, the sight of a pager attached to the belt almost seems to be the rule, rather than the exception. The Postmaster General's office puts the number of pager receivers at just over one million, although estimates within the industry scale the number of active pager users down to nearer 750,000. The assimilation of pagers into Hongkong's telecommunications infrastructure was, at first, a gradual process. For the first decade, the number of new subscribers grew at a linear rate as the technology overcame teething troubles and the population got used to the idea of paging and the benefits it could bring. From 1985, when there were just under 220,000 receivers, the industry saw a dramatic upsurge, and an additional 500,000 units were registered over the next five years. A major structural change within the industry came in 1990, both in terms of the services being provided and the number of operators providing a paging service. The driving force behind this change came when New World Paging introduced the territory's first secretarial paging system. This move was not only quickly followed by the existing operators but also encouraged a further 11 companies to enter the market, taking the total number of licensed operators to 29. Secretarial paging is more labour intensive and, therefore, more expensive for the user, currently costing about $275 per month as opposed to $210 for conventional paging. But the benefits of personalised operators have led to most new subscribers opting for the secretarial system. With personalised paging, calls are answered by a human operator. One recent development in the secretarial paging system is the idea of Call Forwarding. A pager call is forwarded to a pre-defined telephone number, where it comes through as a conventional phone call. Attempts have also been made to reduce the amount of contact needed with the operator. Hutchinson has introduced a Jetpage service where the user can access messages through an Interactive Voice Response system. New World offers a series of codes for frequently used messages, such as to switch on a mobile phone or state current location. Developments in other fields of mobile communications seem to be helping the paging industry. An estimated 70 to 80 per cent of cellular phone users are also pager users, tending to rely on the pager to notify them that someone is trying to get in contact. Similarly, CT2 micro-cellular phones, without the ability to receive incoming calls, are a notably less useful tool of mobile communications without the parallel use of a pager.