Making an “ordinary” O2 3G data SIM work in an iPad without a tariff change

This content is 12 years old. I don't routinely update old blog posts as they are only intended to represent a view at a particular point in time. Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

The history of my various mobile telcommuncations contracts is a long one, so I’ll spare readers the details but after my recent customer service debacle with Three, I’ve cut them loose (they tried to offer me an iPad 2 for “free” to stay with them… the sort of “free” that involves a 2 year contract… no thanks…).

I planned to use an O2 SIM that was already activated for mobile data in my iPad so I cut it down to micro SIM size, using a cutter that I bought on the ‘net for a few pounds. After booting the iPad with the new SIM, it found the O2 network but told me that I didn’t have a data contract and gave me a number to call O2, and a reference to quote (the identifier for my SIM).

O2 told me that it would require a tariff change and that iPad data is different to mobile broadband. I’m sure they meant that it’s billed differently, rather than that it’s different in any other way (special Apple “iTCP/IP” or “iHTTPS”?) but Tim Biller (@Timbo_Baggins) suggested I look at the Access Point Name (APN) settings.

It took a while to find the right ones – googling for APN O2 iPad told me to change from (username/password: browse/password) to (username/password: vertigo/password) but they didn’t work. I needed to think of this the other way around: my SIM works in a 3G dongle so I googled APN O2 dongle and found an extensive list of APNs for UK mobile network providers. Changing the APN in my iPad to (username/password: web/web) did the trick, as tested by browsing the ‘net (albeit only GPRS where I live) with Wi-Fi turned off.

The advantage of this approach is that the same SIM now works in my iPad or in my dongle (using an adapter) allowing 3G data access from either device, on the same bill, but only one at a time (that’s fine).

Next step is to switch my phone over from O2 (£16.50 a month including 500MB data) to Giffgaff (£10 a month with unlimited data, same network…). I already have the SIM, just waiting to get Christmas out of the way before I try to transfer my phone number!

[Update 16 January 2012: Some time over the last few days, this stopped working for me. The SIM is still active and works in my 3G dongle, but I guess O2 have made some changes in the network that stop this simple APN change from working with an iPad – madness, as my iPad must place less load on the network than a dongle with a Windows PC, albeit more than a smartphone would…]

6 thoughts on “Making an “ordinary” O2 3G data SIM work in an iPad without a tariff change

  1. Hi Mark

    Have you tried this again? Its 02 still not allowing dongle sim to work in a iPad.

    Thinking of getting a ipad3 and have a 1GB dongle contract which I am not paying for, so makes it ideal to use.


  2. Hi Sachin – I haven’t tried recently (and there’s no 3G signal where I am today) but you could always give it a try (and if it doesn’t work, try to change the contract). Cheers, Mark

  3. This was useful for me, thanks. After installing the new IOS6 on my iPad 3 (with an 02 micro-sim), it wouldn’t connect to internet via Mobile Data. ibrowse and idata didn’t work, as they did before, so I tried and web/web and that worked – at least for now. Cheers.

  4. Out of interest, I am wondering how your sim in the iPad is going?

    I am thinking of getting an iPad air (after bowrrowing my parents, and putting a o2 mobile contract sim in which worked in the iPad), but I am concerned that thet to wil be ‘switched’ off for using it in an iPad. I have an old legacy contract which is unlimited data for circa £10.50 and I don’t want to let it go, and use in an iPad would be great!

  5. Hi Steven. Sorry, but I’m not using that SIM any more. Nowadays I just tether my phone instead as it’s no longer prohibited in my provider’s terms of service.

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