International Bandwidth Soars to New Heights


By Paul BrodskyMay 5, 2021


With the annual update of our Global Bandwidth Research Service comes new insights for 2021.

Here's the big news: between 2018 and 2020 alone, international bandwidth used by global networks more than doubled to exceed 2,000 Tbps.

Demand growth has been strongest on links connected to Africa, which experienced a compound annual growth rate of 54% between 2016 and 2020. Growth in the most developed markets in the world—Europe and the United States & Canada—wasn't far behind. 

Used International Bandwidth Growth by Region

2021 Used International Bandwidth Growth by Region

A handful of major content and cloud service providers—namely Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft—remain the primary sources of demand. As of 2020, these companies are the dominant users of international bandwidth, accounting for two-thirds of all used international capacity.

A quick reminder on that front: content providers' capacity requirements vary extensively by route. Their top priority in their international network planning is to link their data centers and major interconnection points.

As such, they often take tremendous capacity on core routes, while focusing much less than traditional carriers do on secondary long-haul routes. To get a sense of this contrast, note that in 2020, content providers accounted for 91% of used capacity on the trans-Atlantic route but just 12% on the Europe-East Asia route.

Share of Used Bandwidth by Category for Major Routes

2021 Share of Used 2021 Bandwidth by Category for Major Routes

With that in mind, another updated stat: across six of the world's seven regions, content providers added capacity at a compound annual rate of at least 62% between 2016 and 2020, compared to a rate no higher than 47% for others.

There's more like this in our freshly updated executive summary.

For full access to the datasets, search tools, downloadable resources, and extended analysis in the Global Bandwidth Research Service, email our team at

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Paul Brodsky

Paul Brodsky

Paul Brodsky is a Senior Research Manager at TeleGeography. He is part of the network, internet, cloud, and voice research team. His regional expertise includes Europe, Africa, and the Middle East.

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