Industry body the SIMalliance announced punchy NFC shipment figures for 2014, despite the growing popularity of other approaches to enabling mobile payments including host card emulation (HCE) technology and tokenisation.
Global shipments of NFC-enabled SIM cards shot up by 69 per cent to 132 million units in 2014, according to the alliance, whose members represent about 90 per cent of the global SIM card market.
For the first time, North America surpassed Japan/Korea in the volume of NFC-based SIM cards shipped. The US grew 92 per cent to 46 million units last year, thanks in part to the popularity of secure element-based NFC initiatives in Canada, although the high profile launch of Apple Pay in the US was not a contributory factor since it uses a different approach to mobile payments.
Indeed, the SIMalliance figures were striking because of their strength in the face of rival approaches. Growth occurred despite initial popularity for Apple Pay, as well as a growing number of banks and other financial institutions adopting HCE during the year. HCE enables NFC services such as mobile payments without relying on access to a secure element.
Meanwhile credit card giants such as Visa and MasterCard committed during 2014 to so-called tokenisation, which can involve storing sensitive user data remotely in the cloud as well as on the secure element on handsets.
Japan/Korea saw 35 million NFC-based SIM shipments, ahead of Europe’s 26 million units, a figure which grew by 85 per cent. In addition, it was worth noting the emergence of China as a NFC-based SIM market in its own right, with shipment volumes reaching 25 million. It was only narrowly behind Europe.
NFC-based SIMs are still only a fraction of the whole market, albeit a fast-growing one. Total SIM card shipments grew by 11 per cent to 4.7 billion in 2014.