New data from ABI Research (http://www.abiresearch.com) 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, according to the research group. 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.
“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,” notes ABI Research Practice Director John Devlin. “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.”