The French regulatory authority ART has today published a consultation document concerning the phasing out of '12' as the traditional directory enquiries number (used today by France Télécom and by other operators), and its replacement by a new number range '118' + 2 or 3 digits.

The goal is to stimulate competition among providers in the provision of directory enquiry services.

'118' has been earmarked as the pan-European code for directory enquiries, by means of an ECTRA Recommendation of 4 Dec 1997 (ECTRA has now been renamed ECC - European Communications Committee), and several EU Member States have introduced '118' numbering systems in the past few years.

The consultation concerns the conditions for granting '118' numbers to operators, the timing of the opening of the new number range (proposed to be mid-2005), the number format, and the length of a possible transition period (2 months simultaneous operation + 4 months of recorded message referring to the new '118' range).

The full text (in French) of the ART consultation document can be accessed by clicking here.

Responses to the consultation are due by 20 Sep 2004.