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Will emerging technologies buoy traditional SIM market?

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The price decline in the subscriber identification module (SIM) smart card market has urged silicon and SIM manufacturers to explore new revenue streams or find novel ways to milk the existing ones.

Silicon and smart card manufacturers are hoping that the greater adoption of innovative technologies such as Near Field Communication (NFC), mobile TV and high-capacity SIM cards will increase their unit shipment and revenue.
New analysis from growth consulting company Frost & Sullivan finds that the world SIM smart card market earned revenues of $2,07-billion in 2006 and estimates this to reach $4,58-billion in 2012.
"The issue of continuously falling prices has been compounded by the influx of low-cost products from China," say Frost & Sullivan Research Analysts Anoop Ubhey, Alejandra Etcharran, Michelle Foong and Lindsey McDonald. "Although companies are turning to NFC and mega SIM cards, they are still apprehensive about the high costs involved in the migration."
SIM managers at the operator level need to have a thorough understanding of the usage of the additional memory. Mobile operators are also reluctant to make the transition to mega memory SIM cards, as it would require investments in a completely new base of universal serial bus (USB)-enabled handsets that can support these new SIM cards.
In addition, they also have to make an extra effort to educate end users about the various applications content. However, once the shift is made, silicon and smart card manufacturers should respond to mobile operators' demands and develop products and applications for these mega SIM cards.
"The operators will have to rely on new subscriptions or upgrades of 2G to 3G handsets, as the cost of replacing a SIM card is usually ten times the cost of the card itself," says Etcharran. "The second option would be to issue lower-cost cards to 2G customers and high-end 3G cards only to new subscribers in order to sell a greater number of cards."
Since high capacity SIM smart cards have no concrete cost structure, early movers will have an advantage. They can generate healthy revenue growth rates before the market attains 'mass market' status and prices stabilise.
A migration to high capacity SIM cards and applications is likely in the next few years, as greater convergence of mobile phone applications is hiking the demand for more secure complex SIMs.
"With the increasing number of multimedia applications, mobile network operators (MNOs) now seek SIM-based multimedia solutions to better serve their customers and for this integration, the SIM requires greater memory," says Ubhey. "Applications such as address book, calendar back-up, messaging, teleconferencing and file transfers, as well as entertainment through gaming and chat services encourage the migration process for a sustained professional and personal convenience."
This focus on solutions has gained significance with card vendors branching out into other areas of operations such as the internet. The SIM smart card has integrated greater levels of support and security with cellular networks evolving from voice to data. Market participants can also persuade mobile operators to adopt advanced SIM technology by demonstrating how subscriber loyalty depends on the innovations in the SIM card.