According to figures from ABI Research, global SIM Card shipments rose by 3.9% YoY in 2016 to reach over 5.4 billion units, with this number expected to hit over 5.8 million in 2020. This moderate growth rate was driven by continued advancement of LTE networks in China, Indonesia, and India, with the latter having fully recovered from the impact of the introduction of SIM ID registration which hit the market heavily in 2013. However, Asia could be considered a market highlight, with its success somewhat offsetting disappointing and stagnant results in the Americas and Western Europe, driven by the closure of Softcard, directly impacting the issuance of single wire protocol (SWP) SIMs, and high saturation levels respectively.
Political turmoil and security risks in many regions have already accelerated the implementation of SIM ID registration for pre-paid SIM cards, which is viewed as a highly effective method to counter national security risks and illegal activity. With more countries expected to implement ID registration in the near future, this could have a negative impact on the market.
Today there remains a level of uncertainly in the market, fueled by the imminent introduction of pre-paid SIM ID registration in Poland, Hungary and the Middle East. India’s ID registration, which took place in 2013, is a prime example of how ID registration can adversely affect the market. Ultimately the time lag between ID registration and SIM deployment resulted in a major reduction in SIM issuance, drastically affecting the localized market where shipments levels dropped near 10% YoY. This is a scenario which all ecosystem players will want to avoid repeating.
“SIM ecosystem players should remain positive despite continued high saturation levels and a possible future impact from planned SIM ID registration implementation,” comments Jonathan O’Flaherty, Research Analyst at ABI Research. "The presented growth opportunity of rising SIM use cases in M2M applications and the emerging IoT may be enough to counterbalance any negative impact on the traditional SIM card market. Overall the mixture of the saturated and established nature of the traditional handset SIM card market, paired with growing M2M and IoT use cases, will create a market capable of future low level annual growth rates in the 2 - 4% range,” he concludes.
With the rise of IoT and M2M use cases, business models will need to pivot, with an emphasis placed on supporting over-the-air (OTA) platforms and services including key management, life cycle management, firmware updates, and subscription management. Thanks to their respective TSM platforms, leading SIM card vendors including Gemalto, OT-Morpho, G&D, and Valid are well prepared for the road ahead. Future revenue growth will be primarily driven by platforms and services as opposed to the hardware centric revenue base which has brought the market to where it is today. This is where the future value resides within the SIM card market.
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