Today Arcep is publishing a draft decision for public consultation on amending the current numbering plan, in particular to relax the geographical restrictions attached to phone numbers starting with 01 to 05, and to test authentication mechanisms to protect users from having their phone number stolen. This draft decision marks another step forward in the numbering plan revamp that Arcep began in 2018, to factor in changes in operators’ needs and in users’ habits.
Allowing users to keep their phone number when moving to a different area code: a practical issue for consumers; an economic issue for businesses
Up until now, in Metropolitan France, every number starting with 01 to 05 has been attached to one of 412 primary dialling codes (called Zones de Numérotation Élémentaire, or ZNE in French). These dialling codes map out the geographical boundaries within which a telephone number can be assigned to a user, and kept by that user when they move. As a result, users – both consumers and businesses alike – are not able to keep their number starting with 01 to 05 if they move outside the primary dialling code area to which this number is attached.
Arcep is committed to being mindful of the inconveniences caused by the current number plan’s geographical structure, which has created dissatisfaction amongst users:
- for consumers, according to the INSEE publication titled “In 2014, a quarter of the population changes departments when they move“ published in June 2017, Arcep estimates that roughly half of all residential moves involve a change in primary dialling code, and so make it impossible for the user to keep the same geographic number;
- for businesses, these restrictions prove especially penalising economically when their operations are based in part on a geographic number that they have been giving to existing and potential customers for several years.
Two stages for gradually relaxing the geographical restrictions attached to numbers starting with 01 to 05 used for fixed calling
To help remedy this “irritant,” and at a time when VoIP architecture is becoming increasingly ubiquitous with operators, Arcep is proposing to relax the geographical restrictions attached to numbers starting with 01 to 05 in Metropolitan France in two stages:
- As of 1 January 2020, operators will be able to offer their users the option of keeping their 01 to 05 number when moving within the area that corresponds to the first two digits in their phone number (01: Ile de France; 02: North-West; 03: North-East; 04: South East; 05: South-West). This means that a consumer or an enterprise located in the Carhaix-Plouguer (Finistère) dialling code, for instance, would be able to keep their number starting with 02 if they move to Bourges, Nantes or Rouen.
- As of 1 January 2023, the geographical restrictions attached to numbers starting with 01 to 05 will be aligned with those attached to mobile numbers (starting with 06 or 07) and numbers with the 09 prefix. This means that operators will be able to offer their business customers in Metropolitan France the option of keeping their 01 to 05 number when moving to any other location in mainland France.
Arcep is also proposing to merge, first, the two primary dialling codes for the territories of Guadeloupe, Saint Barthélemy and Saint Martin, and, second, the seven primary dialling codes for the territory of Guiana, starting on 1 January 2023. The other overseas territories whose numbering plan Arcep is responsible for managing (Martinique, Mayotte, Réunion, Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon) will not be affected by this change as each of them has only a single primary dialling code.
Testing a number authentication mechanism to protect users against fraud and theft
To increase users’ protection against fraudulent use of their phone number, Arcep is also proposing to create a new category of numbers, to allow operators to experiment with possible authentication solutions.
Arcep invites all of the affected stakeholders (operators, consumer protection associations, service providers, consumers) to provide feedback on this draft decision, either directly or through their representatives. The deadline for receiving contributions is Friday, 7 June 2019.
 The INSEE publication breaks down moves in the following manner: within the same municipality, within the same department, to another department in the region, to another region in France. To establish its estimate, Arcep employed the hypothesis that moves to another primary dialling code represent between 25% and 50% of moves to another municipality in the same department.