The fourth "118" directory service survey reveals relative stability in the quality of service

Paris, 26 February 2009

ARCEP is publishing the results of its fourth survey on "118" directory service quality, conducted in October and November 2008. This report is part of ARCEP’s action in favour of greater market transparency and information for consumers.

The survey measured the same indicators as in previous surveys: the rapidity of directory services, their availability and the precision of the information provided.

It was conducted during a period in which the directory service market was shrinking. The annual volume of calls to these services was close to 120 million, down from over 130 million a year earlier. Directory services now face growing competition from electronic directories, thanks to the spread of Internet. Furthermore, close to three years after the introduction of directory service numbers beginning with "118", the directory service market continues to be concentrated around four numbers, with the two most commonly called numbers representing close to 75% of the market in terms of the number of calls.

  • The survey was conducted during implementation of the universal directory

In 2005, ARCEP set up a system to monitor directory service quality using consumer surveys. In October and November 2008, a fourth survey was conducted while the universal directory was being implemented. The results published today are from that survey.

During previous surveys, the measurement of the quality of information provided by directory services did not include the universal aspect of the directory because the universal directory had not yet been fully implemented. What’s more, since 2006, a growing share of subscribers in the universal directory has a phone number not assigned by the fixed telephony incumbent. This survey now evaluates the precision of information provided for a representative sample of the universal directory.

  • The quality of "118" services is relatively stable

This fourth survey covered the ten "118" directory services reporting a significant volume of call traffic (over 10 000 calls per month) to ARCEP; it therefore covers almost all calls made to directory services.

It appears that the level of availability of directory service remains excellent. The average availability rate reached 99%, compared with 98% in October 2006.

Concerning the precision of the information provided, the average rate measured in 2008 was 84% whereas it was 87% in October 2006. The decline in the quality indicator varies from service to service, and may be due in part to the change in the scope of the survey, as mentioned above.

The indicator for the rapidity in obtaining a response returned to the level measured in 2005: according to indicator, obtained as an average of the median values per operator, the information is provided in one minute. This return to the 2005 level follows a degree of improvement in 2006.

The precision and rapidity results highlight the heterogeneity of the "118" services present on the market. In particular, services providing computerised information have longer response times and a lower degree of precision.

  • The exhaustiveness of the directories given the low registration rate of mobile telephony subscribers

The survey also measured the degree of exhaustiveness of the directory bases of "118" services. It showed that the major directory services have been actively collecting the directory lists assembled by operators. However, the directory lists received from mobile telephony operators contain only a small percentage of their subscribers (less than 3%).

With the implementation of the universal directory, the degree of exhaustiveness of the directory bases of each of the "118" services may become an additional factor distinguishing them, since it contributes to the quality of service by increasing the precision of responses to requests concerning subscribers regardless of the operator with which the subscriber has a contract.

In order to encourage better quality of service for the users of "118" services, ARCEP will continue to monitor the development of the universal directory and "118" services’ acquisition of lists of universal directory entries.

Directory service quality surveys

In 2005, ARCEP began monitoring directory service quality in order to measure the effect of replacing old directory service numbers (12, 712, 612, 222, etc.) with numbers beginning with "118".

The aim of the first survey, held in October 2005 on the old directory service numbers prior to the introduction of "118" numbers, was to create a quality reference point based on the performance of these old numbers.

In March 2006 and October 2006, two more surveys covered the "118" numbers opened. The goal was to evaluate and monitor the evolution in the quality of the "118" numbers following the final closure of the old numbers and as these new numbers gained momentum. At the time, the quality of the "118" numbers appeared to be equivalent to that of the old numbers.

A fourth survey was conducted in October-November 2008, and its results are being presented today.

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What is the universal directory?

The universal directory is a compilation of the directory lists created by all fixed and mobile telephony operators. The ways in which the universal directory is implemented are defined by the Posts and Electronic Communications Code (CPCE). They were established by an ARCEP decision (decision no. 06-0639 adopted on 30 November 2006 and approved by an order of the Minister of Electronic Communications published in the Journal Officiel on 24th March 2007).

According to regulations, all telephone services operators are required to create a directory list including those subscribers and users who have expressed the desire to appear, and to send it to any universal directory publisher or universal directory service provider requesting it. Regulation does not establish a centralised universal directory creation process.

The "118" directory service are required to provide a universal directory service, in that they are required to acquire the lists of subscribers wishing to appear in the directory from all telephone service operators.

The regulatory framework is different for fixed telephony operators and mobile telephony operators. In fixed telephony, the rule is automatic inclusion in the directory, i.e. unless otherwise requested by the subscriber. However, in mobile telephony, only subscribers explicitly requesting it are included.

Since, in mobile telephony, the inclusion rate in the directory is barely 3%, representing 1.5 million numbers registered, directory services provide access to just a small fraction of mobile subscribers, despite their acquiring the corresponding directory lists. So, the relatively complete nature of the universal directory proposed by the services tested does not offer consumers any guarantee that the subscribers sought are actually included. In fixed telephony, because of the different regulatory framework, the number of numbers included in the directory is close to 35 million, representing an inclusion rate of 80%.

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