BEIJING has seen a surge in the use of telephone pagers, with the number of registered subscribers doubling in the first half of the year to about 300,000. In China as a whole, there are now more than 2.2 million pager users in 1,075 towns and cities across the country, according to the Xinhua news agency. The massive increase in the use of pagers, analysts said, reflected both the rapid growth of the private economy and the failure of local telephone networks to keep up with that growth. ''Private entrepreneurs need to have access to good communications, but it can take a year to get a phone installed at home, and portable phones are still too expensive for most people,'' a Western business analyst in Beijing said. Pagers, which cost between 300 yuan and 1,200 yuan (about HK$400 to $1,600 at the official rate) a year, had therefore found a ready market, he added. There are already 72 pager services available in Beijing, offering everything from simple messaging, to weather and traffic reports and information on the stock market. Pagers are de rigueur for Beijing's black-market money changers nowadays, enabling them to keep abreast of the latest fluctuations in the US dollar-yuan rate. Over 34 per cent of all pager subscribers are private business people, according to yesterday's Xinhua report, with an additional 22 per cent being employed in the service sector. Those working in government departments and industrial enterprises were at the bottom of the list of pager users, the news agency said. Analysts said the number of pager subscribers in Beijing and other major cities would continue to increase over the next few years because of the relatively slow growth of the telephone network. ''Investment in telecommunications has increased recently, but it still has a very long way to go before it can begin to cope with the demand,'' a business analyst said. ''The phone network needs massive new investment and it needs it now,'' he added.