Paris, July 23 2001
From 31 December 2001, any subscriber will be able to select the telephone operator of his choice for his local phone calls (i.e. inside the same département), as it is already the case since the 1st January 1998 for the long distance, international and fixed to mobile calls.
Thus for example, a subscriber of Nice will be able to call the inhabitants of his département or quite simply his neighbour, by using the services of the telecommunications operator of his choice, as he can already do it if he calls Albi, New York or a cellular telephone.
After a broad consultation with consumers and operators associations, the Autorité de régulation des télécommunications has indeed adopted a decision of July 18 2001, forwarded for endorsement to the Secretary of State to Industry, aiming at defining the implementation conditions and deadline for consumers of this new service: carrier selection for local calls inside the " local areas of sorting ", i.e. the départements.
- historical background
When the ART launched a consultation in 1997 to define the conditions for introducing the mechanism of call by call carrier selection, the operators had estimated that the conditions to develop alternative networks to compete with France Telecom would not enable them to collect local calls under economically viable conditions.
They thus had asked that there should be introduced, in this first phase of development of competition, a system making it possible to exclude local calls from the carrier selection mechanism, which the Authority has done on October 17, 1997 by a decision approved by ministerial decree.
The purpose of this "sorting" mechanism of phone calls was to identify within the telephone network which traffic could be dealt with by the long distance operator, and to make it possible to the subscriber to distinguish in a simple way the "local" calls - which could thus be dispatched only by France Telecom – from the other calls for which another operator could be used, by replacing the "0" (first of the 10-digit French numbers) by this operator's prefix.
Today, technical as well as economic conditions of interconnection have changed and allow to the new telephone service operators to propose carrier selection services which include local calls.
The Autorité de régulation des télécommunications took these developments into account, and this is why the reference interconnection offer for 2001 of France Telecom, approved by the ART, provides that any interconnected operator will be able, upon its request, to ask for the extension of the call by call selection and the preselection to local calls "during the fourth quarter of 2001".
- Who must ensure the sorting of the various local, national and international calls?
This obligation is binding only at France Telecom, only operator to date exerting a "significant market power" on the local loop market.
For the other local loop operators, the question will be discussed in due time and case by case, within the framework of interconnection agreements.
- implementation conditions of the decision
The ART thus decided to allow the extension of the preselection by authorising the suppression, by the operators who wish it, of the current sorting mechanism of local calls in the France Telecom's network.
This procedure, which was already used in November 2000 to allow the extension of selection to fixed to mobile calls, has indeed the advantage of being inexpensive and rapidly implemented, since it requires only one operation per operator.
It is thus likely to support, in the interest of the consumers, the effective development of competition on the local calls transport market without imposing, in a direct or indirect way, useless costs to the end-user.
France Telecom will have to implement this measure in an effective way at the latest on December 31 2001, for all the requests will have forwarded to it by the operators before next 15 November. The requests received after this date will be satisfied within a maximum deadline of six weeks. Certain areas of France Telecom's network being still connected to subscribers switches of an old generation, the ART asked the incumbent to provide a detailed description of the geographical areas concerned, as well as a time-table for the opening of the service, extending until 1 June 2002 at the latest.
- The necessary information to be given to the consumers by the operators
The ART requires of the operators, when they decide the extension of their preselection services to local calls, to take care to give an advanced and detailed information to their customers who already subscribed to the preselection for the long distance calls, with a sufficient time to allow them to exert their choice in full knowledge concerning:
- the technical and tariff conditions of the offer, - the effective possibilities at their disposal to entrust the routing of their local calls to other operators.
The ART believes it particularly necessary that the operational extension of the preselection on a given area be preceded by at least two preliminary steps of information to the customers, who, by the way, remain subscribers of France Telecom.
- Practical consequences for consumers having already subscribed to call by call selection or preselection services
Which are the practical consequences of this extension for consumers having already subscribed to call by call selection or preselection services?
For a customer having subscribed to a contract of call by call selection for the routing of all his long distance, international and fixed to mobile communications with an operator other than France Telecom:
- this operator will have to inform him beforehand of the date of extension of its service to local calls as well as the applicable tariff conditions;
- after this date, the customer wishing that his local calls be actually taken over by this operator, will be able, in a simple way, to dial this operator's prefix like he already does for his long distance, international and fixed to mobile communications.
- if he wishes to keep France Telecom for his local calls, he will only need to dial the normal telephone number of his correspondents without changing his habits (numbers beginning by "0").
For a customer having signed a preselection contract with an operator other than France Telecom:
- this operator will have to inform this customer beforehand, at least twice, of the date of extension of the preselection to the local calls as well as the tariff conditions applicable to these communications;
- after this date, the local calls of this customer will be automatically taken over by this operator if the subscriber composes the telephone number of his correspondents beginning by "0".
- if the customer wishes to give up the preselection service provided by this operator, he will be able to cancel without expenses the whole preselection service, in order to continue to use by default France Telecom's services, or to subscribe to the preselection service of another operator.
- if this customer does not wish to entrust his local calls to this operator while preserving his preselection service, he only needs to dial, instead of " 0 ", the prefix of another operator, including the " 8 " to use France Telecom's services, which means that:
- the business customers will have to program their telephone exchange so that this call by call selection is done automatically; - the residential subscribers will have to dial one of these prefixes for each call before the telephone number of their correspondent.
For customers subject to the public tender procedures, the operators will have to adopt specific technical measures to ensure the continuity of the initially subscribed services whatever the carrier selection mechanisms used.
In all the cases, France Telecom continues to ensure the physical connection of the subscriber, corresponding to the subscription invoiced to the customers, and to provide the routing of the communications towards special numbers, short numbers and emergency numbers.
the decision n° 01-691 (pdf - 33 Ko) of the ART of July 18 2001