Asia Pacific Networks in the Unprecedented Year of 2020


By Shermaine YungDec 2, 2020


I remember my trip to Honolulu for my first-ever PTC at the beginning of this year. Little did I know 2020 was about to take an unexpected turn. 

As the year draws to an end, I thought it would be helpful to look at what 2020 really meant for Asia Pacific networks.

COVID-19’s Impact in 2020 and Beyond

We know that the shift to working and schooling from home caused a spike in internet traffic around the world. It’s unsurprising that international internet bandwidth usage also experienced a sharp increase.

But Asia Pacific’s internet bandwidth usage has seen consistent growth in recent years. How do we know how much of the spike in 2020 was pandemic-induced and how much of it was just the region growing?

On top of the internet bandwidth growth we forecasted, there was an additional 4% and 12% growth in Asia and Oceania, respectively. This could imply the additional amount of bandwidth operators had to add to cope with the unplanned surge in traffic. 

But is that enough bandwidth added? 

In 2020, we saw that peak traffic grew faster than bandwidth. This means networks are more utilized than before. If operators want to return to their pre-pandemic levels of use, then we might expect even more bandwidth growth in 2021. 

Connectivity of Asia Pacific’s Internet Hubs 

The giant internet hubs of the Asia Pacific region—Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Singapore—continue to flourish. However, their connectivity routes have been undergoing important changes. And geopolitical tensions and new regulations raise concerns about the future of these hubs. 

We’ve been seeing a steady shift from Asia Pacific’s reliance on trans-Pacific routes to intra-regional routes. Last year—for the first time ever—the Indonesia-Singapore route overtook China-United States as the largest internet route in the region. 

Intra-Asian internet bandwidth demand has been outpacing trans-Pacific demand for a while now. How does this help us understand what’s next for the region’s internet hubs? Two things to consider:

  • While there are some cancellations/postponements of trans-Pacific submarine cables landing in Hong Kong from the United States, Hong Kong’s role as a regional hub is unlikely to completely change in the near future due to its strong connectivity to other cities within Asia Pacific. 
  • Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Singapore will remain dominant hubs, but there’s an increasing focus to develop secondary hubs in the region. 

Click below to watch the entire presentation Asia Pacific Networks in 2020:


Shermaine Yung

Shermaine Yung

Shermaine is a Research Analyst at TeleGeography. She is part of our infrastructure team and her work is focused on the Asia Pacific region.