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Dealing with numerous iPads (3G and LTE), all with the same telco.

If I go to Settings, General, Cellular Data Number, some iPads display the number fine (e.g. +11234567890).

On others, it shows "Unknown"

There doesn't seem to be any pattern or any rhyme/reason to it (e.g. iPad model, iOS version, SIM card age). Some show up, others don't.

The only fix I've discovered is to have the telco "push an updated profile" to it (not an "iProfile" - some sort of telco profile).

This fix works (after a device restart) but I'm wondering if anybody else has encountered this and found a way to avoid the problem in the first place?

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  • I've had this issue on my iPhone and the problem was my phonenumber was not filled out on the SIM card. For some reason I was not able to edit it on the iPhone, so I put my SIM card in an old SE phone, edited my number, and the problem was resolved.
    – Gerry
    Oct 5 '12 at 21:32
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This occurred when cellular data was turned Off. I turned it on and the number appeared.

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  • Nope. I'm online now without a data number. Aug 12 '13 at 22:04
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Cellular Data Plans Don't Have a Phone Number

A phone number is generally not "attached" to a data only carrier account and this is what the iPads with Cellular + WiFi utilize. Many people confuse having a (tele)phone number with a cellular plan, but a phone number is just a means for the customer to connect to another device on the telephone network.

As plans go, there are basically three types:

  • Voice Only. This is just a basic plan that provides cellular service to make telephone calls with no data. Yep...they still exist!
  • Voice & Data. This is your iPhone plan where you can make/receive calls as well as use the internet
  • Data Only. This is your iPad, or hotspot type of plan (note, this is not tethering to your iPhone type of scenario)

Two of the three plans above will have a telephone number because of the need to make a voice call whereas the data only plan has no need for it. In other words, you can have an account without a telephone number, but you can't have a telephone number without an account.

Access to the Network

It's your SIM (or eSIM) card that gets you access to the network whether it's a voice/data or data only plan. The Subscriber Identity Module is what authenticates you to the carriers network and identifies not only the device, but the account that's being connected. If it's a data only account, there's no phone number.

I posted an answer to a very similar question relating to the Apple Watch's eSIM and calling another number on the PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network).

Why some iPads have a Phone Number and Some Don't

So, when you look up your phone number by going to Settings → General → About → Cellular Data Number, you may get a phone number or it may come back "Unknown."

Why? This is because of the plan that is selected.

  • If you put a SIM card in with a voice/data plan, a phone number will show
  • If it's data only, "Unknown" will show.

Now, since your iPad isn't a phone; excluding FaceTime or similar apps, you can't make telephone calls with it as there's no "Phone App" like on the iPhone. However, you can take the SIM card out of your iPhone that has a voice/data plan attached to it and put it in your iPad and have it function. You'll be authorized to make voice calls and surf the web, but you just won't have the physical ability to make the calls. It's like getting phone and Internet service but only buying the PC and not the telephone.

Could your plan have a phone number but no voice plan?

Absolutely! Carriers make mistakes all the time in how they provision things. Even though things are mostly automated, there's still a human involved in setting things up and a phone number may get provisioned by accident. This doesn't mean your data plan has a (working) phone number because you won't be able to call it.

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Tried all the above but still no joy. Then tried (make sure mobile data is switched on) settings -> mobile data -> mobile data options -> sim applications -> my number

:) hope this helps.

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Ring your provider.

The phone number, & why it may or may not be registering correctly on your equipment, is entirely their domain.

They may have to send you a new SIM, or they may have to push a new profile from their end.
Either way, they're best placed to investigate it.

SIMs are not all 'equal'. Over time the firmware on them changes to accommodate newer devices & features. If yours is an older SIM, then replacing it might be the only option.

I had a similar situation on an iPhone 6S which was still using the SIM supplied for an earlier phone. Whilst it worked fine for the first couple of years, it then started dropping the line & generally being 'weird'. New SIM fixed it immediately.

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