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Emerging markets fuel international call growth

13 Jan 2015

According to new data from telecom market research firm TeleGeography, international telephone traffic continues to grow, despite formidable challenges. International traffic grew 6% in 2013 to 542 billion minutes and is projected to reach 569 billion minutes in 2014.

While growth is slowing, international call traffic has quadrupled since 2000, driven by a fundamental shift in international calling patterns. In 2000, two-thirds of all international calls were made to people in high-income advanced economies, and fixed line phones in advanced economies received just over half of all traffic. Today, those positions have been almost completely reversed. Between 2000 and 2013, traffic to mobiles in emerging markets grew at an annualised rate of 32%, to 245 billion minutes, while traffic to fixed lines in advanced economies grew a paltry 4% annually, to 109 billion minutes. Mobile phones in emerging markets now receive 45% of all international traffic and emerging markets account for 63% of all terminated international telephone traffic.

The proliferation of mobile phones in emerging market countries, which have enabled immigrants to call their families at home, and relentless price declines, which have made calling home increasingly affordable, fuelled the rapid growth of emerging-market traffic. However, this engine of growth is starting to sputter: in 2013, traffic to mobiles grew just 9%.

‘The long boom in traffic to emerging markets was driven by rapidly increasing mobile phone penetration and declining call prices,’ stated TeleGeography analyst Cody Williams. ‘However, phone penetration is nearing 100% in many emerging market countries and, after years of price declines, the incremental effects of further price reductions are also diminishing.’

The abating pace of growth to emerging markets suggests that challenging times lie ahead for carriers, which must also contend with relentless price declines and growing competition from over-the-top (OTT) communications services. However, with 8.3 billion fixed and mobile subscribers at year-end 2014, the PSTN will not fade away anytime soon.

The TeleGeography Report has been a vital source of statistics and analysis for the international long-distance market for over 20 years. To find out more and to download a copy of the executive summary, please visit

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