M2M demand leads to major SIM card growth across Europe

A significant rise in M2M connections across Europe has led to a surge in the number of new SIM cards being issued in the last 12 months, new industry figures have claimed.

According to figures from GlobalData, 15.8 million new SIM cards were issued in Europe in 2017, with M2M's increase helping offset declines in the handset market.

Growth in Europe has slowed in the past few years as consumers change handsets and networks less frequently. For example, in Central and Eastern Europe, falling mobile termination rates are falling leading to a decline in dual SIM users.

In Western Europe, M2M boosted growth to 17.3 million SIM cards with just 1.5 million of these being tied to a mobile device. Italy added 3.9 million M2M SIMs, while France added 3.3 million.


The report said that most countries in the region recorded growth, apart from Germany (which accounts for 38 per cent of all additions), Portugal and Spain. In Eastern Europe, there were declines too.

“In [Central and Eastern Europe], the growth in M2M cards by 6.6 million was not sufficient against the decline of total handsets subscriptions by 7.5 million,” said Stephanie Char, Technology Analyst at GlobalData. “The drop was the highest in the biggest markets of the region, namely Poland, Russia, and Ukraine.”

The figures also highlight the ongoing shift from pay-as-you-go (PAYG) to postpaid. Excluding M2M, contract SIMs rose by 9.7 million, while PAYG fell by 15.7 million. Western Europe is still mainly postpaid, but prepaid remains supreme in Central and Eastern Europe. Across the continent as a whole, PAYG accounts for 51 per cent of the market.

“Data usage is growing fast in the region. Average monthly data usage almost quintupled in Western Europe in the last five years to 2.2GB in 2017 and more than tripled in the CEE, at 3.1GB per user per month,” concluded Char. 

“Other than Austria, Finland and Sweden in Western Europe, Russia is also contributing to increasing the CEE’s average, with Megafon posting very high data usage – 6.5GB per user per month in 2017.”

Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.