The seventeen teams were divided into three pools of four teams and one pool of five. The top teams of each pool played-off against the second-placed teams to decide which four nations progress to World Group Play-offs. The four nations coming last in the pools were relegated to Group II for 2004.
The thirteen teams were divided into three pools each of three teams and one pool of four. The top teams of each pool were randomly drawn against each other in two play-offs to decide which two teams advanced to Group I for 2004.