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Exploring Applications for Mobile Phone SIM Cards

Mobile phone subscriber identification module (SIM) card annual shipments are expected to rise in 2013 by 5 percent to 5.5 billion units, according to the latest market study by ABI Research.

Growth is slowing as markets near saturation and the SIM card becomes increasingly ubiquitous across different mobile network technologies.

However, areas of growth remain with new applications, form factors, and an increasing breadth of connected products.

As such, the related market value will grow at a higher rate to $2.3 billion this year and ASPs are forecast to increase slightly over the next five years.

The emphasis is now on extracting maximum value from the 6.3 -- rising to 7.5 -- billion SIM cards in circulation.

ABI believes that 4G mobile network rollouts, Near Field Communications (NFC) and solutions offering more advanced security for payments -- such as DRM, authentication, and encryption -- will all see higher end SIM cards shipping over the next few years.

"Following shipment growth in 2012 of 8 percent, this is the first time that the SIM card market has had two consecutive years of single-digit growth, said John Devlin, Security & ID practice director at ABI Research.

There is a growing emphasis from leading vendors on new developments to grow their SIM card businesses. The problem is that this is a limited market, highlighting this fact is that, even in 2017, over half of shipments will still be for use on 2G mobile networks.

New form factors and the growing need for data connectivity in consumer electronics and M2M devices will provide some further respite to a slowing market.

In 2012, 3FF, 4FF, and MFF accounted for 6 percent of shipments; by 2017 this will have increased to 33 percent. Simultaneously, 3G and 4G will have grown from 19 percent to 42 percent.

The end result of these advances is that high-end SIMs -- i.e. 512KB and above -- will account for a third of SIMs shipping in 2017.

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