Many retail service providers, such as mobile operators, MVNOs, and cable broadband providers, rely heavily on wholesale carriers to transport and terminate their customers’ international calls.
Wholesale carriers terminated approximately 257 billion minutes of traffic in 2022, down 5% from 2021. Wholesale traffic declined at an average rate of 1% per year over the past ten years, compared to a -2% CAGR for overall traffic. Wholesale carriers terminated nearly three-fourths (72%) of international traffic in 2022, up from 70% the year before.
Traffic to mobile phones in emerging markets has spurred expansion in wholesalers' share of the overall market. In 2022, wholesale carriers terminated over 87% of traffic to Sub-Saharan Africa and South America. In contrast, wholesale carriers terminated only 56% of traffic to Western Europe.
Wholesale revenues have changed only marginally from ten years ago. But let’s take a moment to look under the hood.
Over the past decade, traffic to mobile phones in emerging markets has driven international wholesale market growth.
Wholesale Revenues by Market Type, 2012 and 2022
Wholesale Traffic by Market Type, 2012 and 2022
Notes: Advanced markets are defined as those of the upper 30th percentile of countries as ranked by GDP per capita in 2022. Emerging markets are those of countries in the lower 70th percentile. World and regional totals exclude countries with extremely low traffic volumes. Source: TeleGeography, © 2023 TeleGeography
In the figures above, you'll notice that revenues from calls to mobiles in emerging markets (the yellow segments) noticeably bulged from $9.7 billion in 2012 to $10.7 billion in 2022.
As a portion of overall wholesale carrier revenues, calls to advanced economies shrank, as did revenues from calls to fixed lines in emerging markets.
Who's carrying all this traffic?
The next figure shows a ranking of some of the world’s largest international carriers.
Traffic Volumes of Major Carriers
Notes: Pre-2013 data for Vodafone, which reflect the combined traffic of Vodafone and the former Cable & Wireless Communications, are not available. In 2021 Vodafone Idea India and Vodafone Australia traffic is no longer reported under Vodafone structure due to ownership changes in 2020. Source: TeleGeography, © 2023 TeleGeography
The top nine operators in the figure carried nearly half of all global traffic in 2022, about 178 billion minutes.
Among the nine largest carriers in the world, only Deutsche Telecom terminated more traffic in 2022 than in 2021.
Want More Data?
You'll find additional insights in our new International Voice Report Executive Summary.
This analysis covers international call traffic, cross-border OTT traffic, wholesale revenues and traffic, traffic volumes of major carriers, and more.
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.