Status of Connectivity in Latin America
We wanted to highlight TeleGeography data on connectivity over the last year (2022).
These highlights were taken from two different research tools: a) the Global Bandwidth (GB) Research Service, which focuses on annual bandwidth utilization and submarine cable systems; and b) Global Internet Geography (GIG), a research service that focuses on Internet backbone networks.
Growth of International Bandwidth
The data shows that the demand for international bandwidth continues to grow in Latin America.
After slowing to 20% in 2018—the slowest annual growth rate recorded in decades—regional demand for bandwidth rebounded to an average annual growth of 35% between 2019 and 2021. Overall, the capacity deployed in the region by various types of network operators has nearly tripled since 2017, rising to more than 140 Tbps in 2021.
Brazil continues to generate the highest demand for bandwidth in the region. In 2021, Brazil had 55 Tbps of used international bandwidth capacity. As the table below shows, the smallest economies are the ones that have grown the fastest.
In Central America, Honduras and Guatemala had compound annual growth rates (CAGR) of 48% and 44%, respectively, between 2017 and 2021. Similarly, in South America, both Ecuador and Uruguay have had CAGRs of little over 45% since 2017.
The Rise of Content Providers
Mirroring other global capacity trends, content network operators have an increasingly visible presence in the Latin American bandwidth market. These companies are expanding their geographic reach and are the owners and anchor customers of new cable systems.
The following table shows the total bandwidth deployed in Latin America by each type of network.
Cloud Hubs and Their Impact on Connectivity
Once content cloud data centers are launched in the region, traffic increases and countries begin to send and receive content within the region itself.
Today, countries like Uruguay and Argentina are increasingly connecting directly with Brazil for content instead of connecting to the United States as they did before.
This behavior has become a global trend and is being adopted in Latin America. The creation of cloud hubs leads to the creation of an ecosystem around them. Once content providers move to certain countries/areas/regions to set up their data centers, they are usually followed by an increase in undersea cables and terrestrial links that start connecting to those centers. Other CDNs then join in to create a network in those areas, accompanied by the growth of local ISPs (Internet Service Providers) and IXPs (Internet Exchange Points).
The Future of Terrestrial Links and Submarine Cables
In Latin America, Brazil has been the main interconnection hub in terms of international capacity. Most of the capacity is still connected to the United States (83%), however, international connectivity between Latin American countries has been growing at a faster rate than to the U.S. the past three years.
Chile, Colombia, and Mexico have recently started to grow into regional hubs. The increase in the number of both terrestrial and submarine links is very important to improving the connectivity of these markets, as they expand the capacity to send and receive traffic while bringing down prices as competition increases.
To keep up with the growing demand for bandwidth, both operators and governments are investing in terrestrial connectivity. Highlights include initiatives by Internexa to connect Colombia, Chile, and Peru; Neutral Networks, which intends to connect Mexico City with Santiago de Querétaro and Monterrey; and the Chilean Telecommunications Subsecretariat, which intends to install fiber optics in six regions in the country.
In this context, submarine cables are a fundamental piece of the puzzle. The current trend is for major content providers such as Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, or Cloudflare to finance and build their own cables to ensure that their services will be quickly and easily available anywhere in the world.
At the end of 2022, TeleGeography found 57 active cables and another five were recently announced that involve countries in Latin America and the Caribbean (Firmina, Deep Blue One, Gold Data-1, Caribbean Express, Carnival Submarine Network-1).
Bandwidth prices in Latin America and the Caribbean reflect the wide range of markets that exists within the region. Regional network hubs with robust connectivity, high demand, and intense competition coexist with smaller markets with lower bandwidth requirements and limited competition.
Despite this, the general trend remains stable across the region and prices continue to drop.
From 2018 to 2021, in all the routes tracked by TeleGeography in the U.S. and Latin America, the weighted median 10 Gbps prices fell an average of 24% compounded annually.
With new submarine cables and others in the works such as those mentioned above, the TeleGeography team anticipates that this trend will persist, as both the supply and the demand for bandwidth continue to grow. In other words, prices will decrease as competition and the number of providers and global companies installed in Latin America and the Caribbean increase.
Special thanks to TeleGeography Senior Research Manager Patrick Christian and Research Analyst Juan Velandia for the data and insight contained in this article.
Patrick heads the Cloud and WAN Infrastructure research service. He also focuses on African and European markets specializing in international bandwidth markets and internet infrastructure, WAN services, terrestrial + submarine cable systems, and international voice traffic analysis.
Juan’s primary research is focused on infrastructure for markets in Latin America and the Caribbean.