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Global mobile calling traffic declines for the first time in ever

By Ryan Morris-Reade
Tue 25 Jan 2022

New research reveals international call traffic declined by 7% in 2020 and that the downhill trend continues from 2015 after only a slight increase in 2020 at the start of the pandemic.

TeleGeography, a global telecommunications market research and consulting firm, has released a report and database analysing COVID-19 and how the OTT effect and wholesale carriers have contributed to the decline of voice traffic. 

The company says that despite a slight rise in traffic once restrictions were implemented, the overall 2020 data matched that of previous years. It says the carrier's traffic fell by 9% in 2017, 4% in 2018, and a further 6% in 2019. 

One area possibly impacted by the pandemic is the mobile-originated share of international traffic, which dropped for the first time from 62.4% in 2019 to 62.0% in 2020. 

"The 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," says TeleGeography principal analyst, Patrick Christian.

"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." 

The 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. And it found wholesale carriers terminated more than 70% of international traffic in 2020. 

When narrowed down, the research found wholesale carriers terminated over 85% of traffic to Sub-Saharan Africa and South America. In contrast, wholesale carriers terminated only 54% of traffic to Western Europe.

"After 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," says TeleGeography senior analyst, Anahí Rebatta.

She says it's also possible there could have been an even more significant drop without the early COVID-effect surge. 

This comes not long after Moa Capital, a U.S.-based private equity firm, acquired TeleGeography. Under Moa Capital's ownership, TeleGeography says it will continue to deliver the best telecom data and analysis with security and integrity at the core. Moa Capital is a growth private equity firm focused on companies in the lower-middle market.

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

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