Paris, 4th February 2005
On June 25th, 2004, the Conseil d’Etat called on Autorité de régulation des télécommunications (ART) to modify the national numbering plan in order to retire the number "12" as the access number to directory assistance services, and to allocate numbers with the same format to all operators offering this type of service to the public.
After collecting the opinions of the involved players in a public consultation, ART has chosen a single number format for all providers of national directory assistance services.
ART selected six-digit numbers beginning with "118". These numbers are used for directory services in many other European countries.
- Why this choice? Review of the context
In 2002, several directory assistance service providers asked ART to modify the national numbering plan to prevent the number "12" from being used for directory assistance, and to allocate numbers with the same format to all providers offering directory assistance services, whether telecoms operators or directory assistance service providers.
The reason for this request is that the number "12" is reserved for the directory assistance services provided to their own subscribers by telecoms operators, whether fixed or mobile, who share it at no charge. Other directory assistance service providers can currently offer their services only via four-digit numbers, allocated by ART, and for which a fee is charged.
In order to put an end to the distortion to competition caused by the use of different number formats, the Conseil d’Etat called on Autorité de régulation des télécommunications to define, within six months of its decision, the allocation conditions for numbers of the same format for all operators offering directory assistance services and to revise the numbering plan. Therefore, following a transition period, the number "12" will no be longer used for directory assistance services.
- ART’s decision: the number "12" and equivalent numbers (such as mobile directory assistance services) will be replaced by six-digit numbers beginning with 118
In accordance with the Conseil d’Etat’s decision, ART has chosen a single number format for all firms wishing to provide directory assistance services.
Following the recommendation of ECTRA (European Committee for Telecommunications Regulatory Affairs), the range of numbers beginning with 118 has been reserved for this purpose, as it is in many European countries.
ART chose a number with six digits, providing a theoretical potential of 1,000 numbers, although the 100 numbers in the 1181YZ range have been frozen and will not be allocated.
- 118 services will provide consumers with access to the universal directory
In order to simplify the change as much as possible for consumers, ART has decided that all voice directory assistance services using the number 118 must provide at least the national universal directory assistance service (i.e. the equivalent of the white pages, including fixed and mobile numbers, as well as Voice-Over-IP numbers beginning with 087 for calls to Internet set-up boxes, for example, as well as 3BPQ and 08 numbers for free phone and premium services).
Naturally, providers may also offer other services to their users (international or professional directories, reverse directories, services in foreign languages, call forwarding, directory assistance via SMS or e-mail, etc.).
- How will 118 numbers be allocated?
Numbers or blocks of numbers are generally allocated on a first-come, first-served basis. However, in order to meet significant initial demand and to allocate these new numbers under objective, transparent and non discriminatory conditions, ART intends to initially allocate 118XYZ numbers using a random draw.
The draw will be held on May 11th, 2005. Applicants must submit their complete application by April 15th, 2005 . Each group will be allocated up to ten 118 numbers (a single application must be submitted for all affiliates of a single group). ART will publish the list of eligible groups before the draw.
In order to prevent speculation, the 118 numbers may not be transferred to another operator for a period of two years, after which time their transfer will be subject to the prior approval of ART. For the same purpose, ART will reclaim any numbers not used within 12 months.
- Important dates
- April 15th, 2005 at noon :
Applications for one or more 118 numbers must be received by this time.
- May 11th, 2005 :
Random draw and allocation of numbers to applicants.
- November 2nd, 2005 :
Operational launch of the first 118 services.
- April 3rd , 2006 :
The number "12" and other directory assistance services (612, 712, 222, 3200, etc.) will no longer be operational: persons calling these numbers will hear a message informing them that directory assistance services have been transferred to the new 118 numbers.
- April 3rd, 2007 :
Final closure of the number "12" and directory assistance services other than 118. These numbers will no longer be reachable.
The entire schedule, excluding the application deadline, depends on the Government’s publication of a decree establishing the amount of numbering fees.
- Information for consumers
1/ on the implementation of 118 numbers
ART is aware that the replacement of the number 12 with six-digit 118 numbers may cause confusion for some consumers. This is why it has initiated discussions with Government departments on the most effective ways of informing the public. Naturally, consumer associations will be involved in this information process.
Then, once the new 118 numbers have been launched, ART will launch surveys to measure the quality of service of the various directory assistance services; these measurements will be made public on ART's web site, and made available to the media and to consumer associations.
2/ on how much consumers will be charged to call a 118 service
As it is the case today, the tariffs of directory assistance services are set by operators, except for those provided by the universal service provider whose tariffs are regulated.
3/ on the universal directory service
The Government is expected to publish a decree on the universal directory and directory assistance, in application of the law of 10 July 2004 on electronic communications.
This decree will require all telecoms operators to quickly create an information campaign for their subscribers in order to inform them of their rights and collect their personal data. In particular, the directories will include the personal data of the subscribers of mobile and alternative fixed operators, including those using telephony on IP.
Subscribers will be able to decide whether they want the personal data of the users of their line (first and last names, fixed and mobile numbers, professions, postal and e-mail addresses) to be provided by directory assistance.
Finally, users can also request that some of their personal data be hidden (e.g. postal address or first name).