Why Do I have to Buy a Plan to get a Phone Number?

A Comparative Analysis of “Calling Party Pays” and “Subscriber Pays Both Ways” in Wireless Telephone Service

The evolution of communication technologies has significantly transformed the way people connect with each other, particularly in the realm of wireless telephone services. Two prevalent billing models have emerged in this domain, each with its own merits and drawbacks: “Calling Party Pays” and “Subscriber Pays Both Ways.” This article explores and compares these two approaches, shedding light on their implications for users, service providers, and the broader telecommunications landscape.

“Calling Party Pays”:

In the “Calling Party Pays” model, the burden of covering the cost of the call falls primarily on the person initiating the communication. This model is characterized by the caller being responsible for the charges incurred during the call. Historically, this approach has been adopted in various regions around the world, fostering widespread adoption due to its simplicity and ease of implementation.


  1. Affordability for Recipients: One of the key advantages of the “Calling Party Pays” model is that it makes communication more affordable for recipients. The callee does not have to worry about incurring charges for incoming calls, promoting accessibility and encouraging communication.
  2. The ability to obtain a Mobile Telephone Number without paying for a monthly service plan: Outside of North America some carrier will issue a mobile number without recurring monthly charges to receive incoming calls only.  Outgoing calls may be pay-as-you-go or part of a monthly allowance from a paid service plan


  1. Potential for Abuse: Critics argue that this model can be exploited by telemarketers or other entities making unsolicited calls, as the burden of payment lies with the caller. This may lead to an increase in unwanted calls and spam.
  2. Complex Billing Structures: Implementing and maintaining a billing system based on the “Calling Party Pays” model can be complex for service providers, potentially leading to higher operational costs.

“Subscriber Pays Both Ways”:

In contrast, the “Subscriber Pays Both Ways” model assigns the costs of communication to the recipient or subscriber. The subscriber bears the responsibility for the charges incurred. Calling parties may be liable for long distance fees but will not pay a surcharge to access the mobile network.


Both the “Calling Party Pays” and “Subscriber Pays Both Ways” models have their strengths and weaknesses, impacting users and service providers differently. The choice between these models depends on regional preferences, cultural norms, and the goals of the telecommunications industry.

Users in the North American Markets (USA and Canada) are in a “Subscriber Pays Both Ways” system.  Mobile numbers are assigned after the user purchases a service plan from the provider.  Most service plans require payment for at least 30 days of service.  This is a distinctive difference for foreign travelers who come from Europe and parts of Asia where “Calling Party Pays” structures are widely used.