Global eSIM market set for ‘hyper growth’ – report

Source: Counterpoint Research

Source: Counterpoint Research

  • The global eSIM market has moved past an inflection point following the iPhone eSIM-only release in the US
  • Shipments of devices supporting eSIM and related technologies are set for ‘hyper growth’ by 2030, according to Counterpoint Research
  • Apart from smartphones, several other consumer segments are expected to increasingly adopt and make use of non-physical SIMs
  • A further boost is expected for iSIM-capable devices by the end of the decade

The global market for devices supporting embedded SIM (eSIM) and related technologies is set for “hyper growth” from now until 2028 (see chart, above), according to Counterpoint Research, which estimates that shipments will surpass 9 billion between 2024 and 2030.

In its latest report on the global eSIM landscape, the analyst house predicts that in the period, there will be a 22% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) in shipments of what it dubs xSIM-capable devices – those that support eSIM, iSIM (integrated SIM), nuSIM (an integrated SIM for internet of things, or IoT, scenarios) and SoftSIM (a SIM card that exists purely in software, without any physical hardware component). 

Furthermore, almost 70% of all cellular devices shipped by 2030 are expected to be capable of supporting eSIM or iSIM, mainly smartphones and cellular IoT modules.

In the consumer space, Counterpoint forecasts that the installed base of xSIM-capable devices will exceed 2.5 billion units by 2030.

(As a reminder: An eSIM is a programmable SIM card embedded into a device that allows users to switch to another connectivity provider more easily, but is still a separate physical element; while with an iSIM approach, the SIM functionality is integrated into the host device’s main processor.)

One of the main reasons for the anticipated growth is that the industry has now moved past an inflection point following Apple’s release of the US-exclusive, eSIM-only iPhone in 2022, and with it the market is now “entering a period of hyper growth”, according to the research firm. It backs up this view by noting that an increasing number of original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are launching eSIM-capable devices.

In terms of device breakdown, Counterpoint Research noted that while smartphones currently have the highest adoption rate on the consumer side, other categories, such as connected cars, routers and drones, “stand to greatly benefit from eSIM or iSIM-based connectivity” due to difficulties with managing physical SIMs. In the long run, xSIM is expected to become “the default form factor” for these market segments, noted the research firm.

The rising takeup of the technology among global telcos, with more than 400 operators now supporting eSIM services globally and enabling an average of over 50 consumer devices, is another indication of growth in the xSIM space.

“Key ecosystem players have started preparing to deploy eSIM beyond their flagship devices into mid-tier segments. The new eSIM-only iPad is another sign indicating that the future is eSIM. Other use cases, such as travel and roaming, will also greatly help in increasing eSIM adoption in the short term,” said research analyst Siddhant Cally.

And while eSIM is leading as a technology type across xSIM-enabled devices, Counterpoint expects iSIM-capable devices to grow the fastest in the forecast period, with global shipments rising at a CAGR of 160% between 2024 and 2030.

“These are still very early days for iSIM. However, we expect iSIM adoption to pick up steam in the next three years. The technology has the potential to bring more efficiency to devices by lowering costs, size and complexity. This makes it ideal for use in a wide range of IoT applications, from smart home devices to industrial sensors,” explained senior analyst Ankit Malhotra.

In September 2022, US tech giant Apple made a bold move in its home market by introducing a range of iPhone 14 models that only support eSIM. At the time, this was described by research house GlobalData as a “turning point in the mobile carrier industry” – see Apple’s eSIM gambit a “disaster for ill-prepared carriers”, says analyst.

In terms of value, the eSIM market is expected to reach $16.3bn by 2027, according to a 2023 study from Juniper Research.

- Yanitsa Boyadzhieva, Deputy Editor, TelecomTV

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