SIMalliance Reports 4.7 Billion Global SIM Shipments in 2015

Elsewhere in Asia, however, strong growth was evident, with both the Indian and Japanese/Korean markets performing well. India, which now has the highest shipment volumes in Asia as reported by SIMalliance members, saw a 25% year-on-year market increase, as shipped units jumped from 653m units in 2014 to 816m in 2015. This level of growth signals a recovery from a regulation-induced decline in 2013, as SIM shipments return to stable market levels. Volumes in Japan/Korea grew by 12.5% to 64m. This continues to be a technically progressive market, with persistent demand for advanced SIM technologies, such as LTE, NFC, nano SIMs and M2M SIMs.

In the Americas, shipments jumped 6% from 738m units in 2014 to 781m in 2015. Growth in this region, particularly in South America, is largely attributed to the continued roll out of 4G networks and the ongoing migration to LTE cards, which currently shows no signs of slowing.

A 14% market increase in MEA, where year-on-year shipments rose from 861m to 982m units, demonstrates the strong growth potential of this market. Growth is due to three factors: the ongoing penetration of smartphones, which is seen particularly in emerging markets thanks to more affordable smartphone models leading consumers to upgrade from feature phones; continued subscriber acquisition; and a sharp rise in LTE card shipments, as 4G networks start rolling out across African markets. 

The return to growth (1%) in Europe (440m to 444m units) has been welcomed by SIMalliance as an indicator of market stability, particularly since no major SIM technology migration was undertaken in 2015. 

On a global scale, the biggest technology driver of SIM market growth in 2015 was the continued migration to 4G networks, leading to every market in every region reporting, at minimum, double digit growth in LTE card shipments.

Globally, an exceptional 88.5% growth in shipments of cards that can be used in LTE networks was observed, driving volumes of this type of SIM to exceed 1 billion units for the first time. Greater China (380m units) remained the largest LTE SIM card market in 2015. North America (161m units) retained its place as the second largest market, followed by South America (113m units), Brazil (64m) and India (62m). In China and India, LTE cards shipped were localised solutions based on regional standards.

The cessation of Softcard in the US in 2015 impacted significantly on NFC-enabled SIM shipment volumes in the region throughout the year, resulting in a decline for North America shipments. NFC SIM growth was seen, however, across Asia (16% to 68.7m units) and Europe (25% to 32.8m units) among other markets, generating a total increase in shipments of 20m units outside of the Americas. Despite these increases, the influence of activities in the US led to a static global picture for NFC-enabled SIMs.

As in previous years, Europe contributed heavily to a 48% increase in the number of shipments of embedded SIMs (soldered) designed specifically for M2M applications. Volumes also rose significantly in Japan/Korea, an early-adopter market, where M2M services are well established. This could signal a further potential growth opportunity for embedded SIMs, as other markets follow and expand M2M deployments across sectors such as automotive, and energy/utilities.    

As expected, the nano-SIM market (including Triple SIMs as reported by SIMalliance members) performed well throughout 2015 as demand continued to increase for smaller SIMs for use in the latest smartphone models. Year-on-year volumes were up by 194% and this category now comprises 26% of all SIM shipments, up from 9% in 2014.  While every market in every region increased its nano SIM category volumes in 2015, the largest markets, respectively, were Western Europe, China, North and South America. 2015 was the first year that 2FF SIM shipments did not dominate the market.

Herve Pierre, SIMalliance Chairman, comments: “The trend for many key SIM markets in 2015 was expansion. Despite economic and regulatory challenges within the Chinese market, total market shipments still grew by a healthy 2% – or 100m units across the year. Outside of China, SIMallance shipments grew by 7% across all other markets, indicating the strength of other regional markets. This is largely attributable to the ongoing penetration of smartphones in emerging markets and the continued roll out of 4G and the subsequent demand for LTE cards, which has been a very positive technology migration success story this year. With shipments of cards destined for LTE networks reaching 1 billion units for the first time in 2015, migration is now in full swing across all regions of the world and it is expected to continue apace. 

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