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So,

I have an iPad Air 2 64 GB LTE purchased in India. I'm using a network carrier called Airtel for the data. This device is running iOS 8.4 as of posting this question.

Here's my problem-

When I put in my SIM card, the 3G band doesn't work. I don't see an option to manually select a 3G band either. I can see LTE or 2G/Edge but not 3G.

Some of you may ask - Why not just use LTE? Because Airtel only allows LTE for users of post-paid phones. I don't want to use a post paid connection for a device which is seldom out of WiFi range. For the few occasions that I'm not near Wifi, I need the iPad to work with whatever sim card I have with me. Also, LTE coverage is spotty to poor in most Indian cities.

For readers from other countries - specifically from the US, cell phones and tablets are purchased directly from something like a Best Buy after paying full price. These devices are carrier unlocked. It is the norm to swap in whichever SIM card suits your fancy for that day. The expectation from the device is that it should work perfectly.

On Android/Windows Phone/Symbian/Blackberry devices, its a trivial matter to go to the device settings and have the device use a specific network band. This is useful when you have poor 4g/3g coverage and want the device to stick to lets say, 2G/Edge bands. A 2G/Edge band is still quite useful for IM, Emails, SMS and phone calls. Obviously, you can't use it for streaming media, but that's alright.

Recent iOS devices have the hardware capable of using the most popular 2G/3G/4G/LTE/WCDMA bands. However, for reasons best decided by the iOS engineers, the choice to allow this band selection is enabled by the network carrier through the use of some elusive settings and files called the IPCC or Carrier settings files.

For readers from developed countries - most networks in India don't bother providing IPCC files because all non-iOS devices work without these settings just fine. So, when I go to an Apple forum - I'm just asked to use a different network. (As if!)

Anyway, I've searched the Internet high and low for these mystical IPCC files. Most resources are out of date or suggest that you root the device. Rooting is not an option because that would void the warranty.

Every time I connect the iPad to iTunes, I see a popup saying that carrier updates are available...I tell it to go do the update, but then zilch.. nothing happens.

Then I go do the other thing all Internet resources tell me : Settings > General > About > Update... and again, zilch.

So, how do I go about solving this problem?

Thanks for any help.

ps: Any comment or suggestion which mentions that the network carrier should provide these files - I say to them : All other devices work perfectly on their networks, so why should there be special arrangements for an iOS device? In developing countries, iOS devices account for a minor fraction of the subscriber base.

  • One piece of info missing from your comprehensive post - what iOS? My iPhone 5S used to only have a 4G/2G switch, until iOS 8.[something] now it has 2/3/4 in Settings > Cellular >Voice & Data though no finer granularity than that, Edge or GPRS 'happen when they happen' – Tetsujin Jul 3 '15 at 17:36
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I found the answer myself and I thought I should put it out there for another hapless (recent iOS) convert drawn like a moth to the flame that is these beautiful yet quite flawed iOS devices, so that they may continue make the most of their devices in good network coverage or poor.

So, how do you get an iPad Air 2 LTE (running iOS 8.x) to the ability to use 3G on Airtel India in Bangalore, Karnataka?

Without much further ado, I present to you the answer ....

... do a factory restore using an IPSW file.

Its really simple to do this. I'll give you the general outline.

  1. Backup your iPad or iPhone using iTunes or iCloud. You should already know how to do this.

  2. Download the IPSW file for your device onto your computer. This link is a good place to start. There are other websites which provide the same service.

  3. Connect your iOS device to iTunes and select restore device. This link has more details.

  4. Keep your device connected to the computer throughout the restore process.

  5. When the device has booted up after the reset, iTunes will ask you to check for the carrier settings check. Allow it do so... and you will have 3G working on your iOS device.

I hope this helps someone else.

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    With no real evidence either way - that could have just been a random glitch…. the old 'switch it off then back on again' thing. But, I've no axe to grind & I'm glad you got there in the end :) – Tetsujin Jul 3 '15 at 17:40
  • Yes, I should mention that I rebooted the device and got a new SIM card. This solution could possibly work on a newer iPhone which came from the factory running iOS 8.x – abjbhat Jul 3 '15 at 17:41
  • One more, I had a similar problem with iPhone 6 plus. It was only when I got iOS 8.3 that the 2G/3G/4G selection was available to me. I got the device with 8.1 installed and it would only let me do a 4G toggle. – abjbhat Jul 3 '15 at 17:42
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    I had a conversation with a provider engineer a while ago - remarkably I got to speak to one instead of the 'guy who reads down the card' - & he said my partner's 5 would have the switch, my 5S wouldn't. He was right, but a later OS added the option to my phone too, so I'm guessing your basic idea is sound, that it's the OS rather than the hardware. Being in the UK, using a single provider, of course this is usually no issue for me personally. – Tetsujin Jul 3 '15 at 17:47
  • @Tetsujin: I know it feels that its a minor glitch, but really.. when your expensive device doesn't do the one basic thing your significantly cheaper android or windows phone could do without breaking a sweat.. it suddenly doesn't feel like a trivial situation. :) – abjbhat Jul 3 '15 at 17:47

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