A total of 4.2bn SIMs were shipped in 2013 by members of the SIMalliance, an organisation that represents suppliers responsible for 86% of the global SIM market, 5% down on 2012. The drop was due to fewer low-end SIMs being shipped in Asia, the group says, and was accompanied by “significant increases” in high-end SIM shipments — especially those supporting secure NFC services.
Globally, NFC-enabled SIM shipments by SIMalliance members rose by 159% to 78m units, the organisation says.
“The strongest NFC market was Japan and Korea (37m shipments), while North America (24m shipments) superseded Western Europe as the second largest NFC market in 2013. Market growth for NFC-enabled SIMs was reported across North America, Greater China, Pacific Asia, Japan and Korea, and Europe.
“2013 was the third consecutive year that significant shipments of NFC-enabled SIMs have been reported by the SIMalliance membership and each year has brought rapid growth across multiple markets; in 2011, there were 16m shipments of NFC-enabled SIMs, with a further 30m in 2012. This exponential growth trend is likely to continue in 2014.”
“The most positive trend observed globally is the sharp increase in demand for high-end SIM products, particularly against a backdrop of the continuing momentum for NFC service deployments worldwide,” says SIMalliance chairman Frédéric Vasnier.
“With 124m NFC-enabled SIMs shipped in the past three years; the expectation that NFC SIM shipments will continue to rise in all advanced markets in 2014; and a critical mass of NFC-enabled handsets and NFC-ready POS terminals gaining ground, the signal is loud and clear: the infrastructure has been laid for the future mass roll-out of secure SIM-based NFC services. A strong foundation is now in place worldwide and is ready to be utilised by NFC service providers.”
And, despite the arrival of host card emulation (HCE), NFC-enabled SIMs will continue to have an important role, Vasnier adds.
“The emergence of HCE and the opportunities it brings to the entire NFC ecosystem — as it supports the growth of NFC by making it more accessible and versatile to developers and more familiar to end users — makes the case for easier third party access to NFC secure elements even stronger.
“As demand for secure NFC services grows, the limitations of HCE which make it best suited for use cases where stringent security requirements, optimal transaction speeds and always-available functionality are not mandatory, mean that NFC-enabled SIMs will play a vital role in bringing such secure NFC services to market.
“Finally, it’s also worth noting that the Mobile Connect initiative, announced by the GSMA in February, could have an influential effect on the industry in years to come. The initiative will bring strong identity capabilities to potentially billions of mobile users via their SIMs, reinforcing the added value that hardware-based SEs can deliver relative to advancing security in an increasingly digital world.”