Global LTE SIM card shipments have more than doubled to 126 million during the past 12 months, thanks to growth in the Americas, Asia and Europe.
The tardy roll-out of 4G across Europe means the continent still lags behind North America (65 million shipments in 2013), Japan/Korea (27 million) and China (10 million), according to new figures from the SIMalliance.
LTE is seen as the key driver for SIM shipments this year, as more and more legacy SIMs get replaced.
Overall, the European market saw shipments decline by 1.5 percent although shipments of newer form factors, such as micro and nano SIMs, were on the rise last year, thanks to increasing number of smart devices that use those SIMs.
Europe was also the key driver in the 30 percent growth in soldered SIMs, which are specifically built for the M2M market.
There was encouraging growth in NFC-enabled SIMs, up 159 percent to 78 million. North America (24 million shipments) became the second largest NFC market behind Japan/Korea (37 million shipments), overtaking Europe in the process.
This was the third year in a row that NFC SIMs have experienced "significant growth", the SIMalliance said, with a total of 124 million shipments since the beginning of 2011.
Frédéric Vasnier, SIMalliance Chairman, commented: “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.
"With 124 million 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."
Overall, there were 4.2 billion SIM shipments last year, a five percent reduction on 2012, which the SIMalliance said was because of the effect of prepaid regulation on low-end SIMs in Asia.