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SIM Card Shipments Drop 200 Million in 2013 as LTE and NFC Delays Exacerbate Decline in Asia, Says ABI Research

The latest update of ABI Research’s “SIM Cards” Market Data found that 2013 market shipments fell 193 million units to 4.94 billion; a drop of 3.8%. A number of separate issues combined to affect the market last year, varying from region to region. While some countries were boosted by the ongoing upgrade and addition of 4G LTE and NFC-capable SIM cards, shipment of such high-end SIMs at a global level were below previous expectations for 2013. However, by far the most significant factor was the overall decline in Asia.

Asia and the ramping penetration of mobile telephony has been the primary growth engine for SIMs over the past five years. In 2013 there were several factors that combined to reverse this process overall. At the end of 2012 India became the latest country to require presentation of ID and registration of the purchase of pre-paid SIMs. This had the single most dramatic impact of any factor last year and resulted in a massive decline in SIM cards sold in the country. As a result of this, and a slowdown in China, the Asian market declined 10.0%, falling below 2011 levels.

Other regions also suffered as MNOs delayed launch of NFC payment services as well as full-blown IMS implementations for data and voice services in their 4G networks. However, activity in both areas increased in 2H13 and ABI Research expects orders for SWP and ISIM UICC cards to grow in 2014 as the market returns to progression.

Practice director, John Devlin, comments, “2013 might be regarded as a hard reset in some ways, a point where ongoing subscriber growth can no longer be counted on to drive volumes. While not discussed publicly, many have recognized that this time would come and vendors are refocusing on streamlining their businesses in an effort to either become as cost-efficient as possible in the supply of high volume low-end SIMs or to build up their software platform and service capabilities. It is clear that this is an increasingly dichotomized market and, with the exception of Gemalto, both card and IC vendors have to choose which end they wish to operate in.”

These findings are part of ABI Research’s SIM Cards Research Service (https://www.abiresearch.com/research/service/sim-cards/).

ABI Research provides in-depth analysis and quantitative forecasting of trends in global connectivity and other emerging technologies. From offices in North America, Europe and Asia, ABI Research’s worldwide team of experts advises thousands of decision makers through 70+ research and advisory services. Est. 1990. For more information visit www.abiresearch.com, or call +1.516.624.2500.

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