Europe saw SIM shipments fall by five percent in 2016 as market consolidation amongst telcos drove down sales.
The number of shipments fell to 420 million units in Europe, according to figures from SIMalliance, due to consolidation across the region.
The industry body, whose members represent around 90 percent of the global SIM market, said high levels of smartphone penetration and subscriber acquisition had shipments in the region stable during recent years.
The decline in shipments last year followed a one percent rise in 2015.
“We see many operators consolidate their buying behaviour with many even going in to merge with others. At a time when buying centres are combined there is a certain reduction to numbers,” said Steffen Frenck, SIMalliance Board Member on a webinar discussing the findings.
Beyond this, he said: “We shouldn’t be very ambitious [about shipments] if we see how big the smartphone penetration is, how much high-end phones are in the market… the level is extremely positive.”
Overall global shipments rose five percent amongst SIMalliance members in 2016 to reach 4.9 billion, driven largely by growth in Asia. The region saw an annual increase in shipments to 2.53 billion.
Shipments in South America also grew to 496 million, rising 1.5 percent, but North America saw shipments contract by two percent to 286 million due to high penetration and the impact of Softcard winding up.
The Middle East and Africa saw a seven percent contraction to 915 million units due to political conditions in the Middle East and economic conditions in Africa.