Traffic Talk: What's the Difference Between Wholesale, Retail, and Direct?


By Paul BrodskyDec 13, 2023


If you’ve checked out our International Voice Report, you probably noticed that the data carefully distinguishes between retail and wholesale traffic, and between wholesale and direct traffic.

What's the difference?

Retail traffic reflects the total call volumes generated by end users, irrespective of how their service provider routes the call to its destination. All international traffic originates as retail traffic.

In 2022, there were 357 billion minutes of international retail traffic.

Wholesale traffic is traffic that is routed to its destination via one or more intermediary carriers.

In 2022, 257 billion minutes of traffic, equivalent to 72% of international traffic, was routed via wholesale carriers.

Direct traffic is international traffic that a carrier transports over its own network, and terminates directly with the destination service provider. Direct traffic (also called “bilateral” traffic) requires the carrier to have a direct business relationship with the destination service provider, and that the two service providers’ networks are interconnected.

In 2022, carriers sent approximately 100 billion minutes of international traffic, equivalent to 28% of global traffic, as direct traffic.

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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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