Mobile Calling’s Share of International Traffic Declines for the First Time Ever


By Jayne MillerJan 18, 2022


Our new voice data is here. And it has a story to tell.

The latest refresh to our TeleGeography Report and Database has revealed that international call traffic declined by 7% in 2020. The downhill trend continues from 2015 after just a slight increase in 2020 at the start of the pandemic.

New intel allowed us to assess how COVID-19—paired with the OTT effect and trends among wholesale carriers—have contributed to the decline of voice traffic.

Despite a small rise in traffic, once restrictions were implemented, the overall 2020 data matched that of previous years. Carriers’ traffic fell by 9% in 2017, 4% in 2018, and by a further 6% in 2019. 

That said, the pandemic may have impacted the mobile-originated share of international traffic, which dropped for the first time ever from 62.4% in 2019 to 62.0% in 2020.

That said, the pandemic may have impacted the mobile-originated share of international traffic, which dropped for the first time ever from 62.4% in 2019 to 62.0% in 2020. 

“This new research shows that the pandemic has not had a huge impact on overall call traffic, despite a brief increase in international call volumes in early 2020. In fact, over half of the operators saw a jump in call volumes in March, but nearly a third still saw a drop in traffic compared to the year before,” said Patrick Christian, Principal Analyst at TeleGeography. 

This new research also examines the expansion of the wholesale market, prompted by the increase of traffic to mobile phones in emerging markets driving up demand for wholesale growth.

It found wholesale carriers terminated more than 70% of international traffic in 2020. More specifically, wholesale carriers terminated over 85% of traffic to Sub-Saharan Africa and South America, and in contrast, wholesale carriers terminated only 54% of traffic to western Europe.

“When the final numbers came in, only one carrier out of 24 reported that traffic levels were higher by the end of the year and global traffic had continued to drop at an even faster rate than in 2019. It’s also possible we could have seen an even bigger drop without the early COVID-effect surge,” said Anahí Rebatta, Senior Analyst at TeleGeography. 

The TeleGeography Report and Database provides comprehensive voice traffic data and analysis. It features international voice traffic data for 61 countries and over 1,000 routes, with expert analysis on the impact of consumer VoIP (OTT) services, trends in retail and wholesale prices and revenues, as well as retail, wholesale, and interconnection rates. 

You can download a copy of this report’s executive summary over here.


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Patrick Christian

Patrick Christian

Patrick Christian is a Senior Research Manager with TeleGeography. He heads the Cloud and WAN Research Service. He also focuses on African and European markets specializing in international bandwidth markets and internet infrastructure, WAN services, terrestrial and submarine cable systems, and international voice traffic analysis.

Connect with Patrick  

Anahí Rebatta

Anahí Rebatta

Anahí is a Senior Analyst at TeleGeography. As part of the infrastructure team, she heads the Global Internet Geography research service. Her regional focus is on Latin America and the Caribbean.

Connect with Anahí