Using a PAYG standard SIM in an iPad 3G

May 5, 2010

I took delivery of my iPad 3G today, shipped over from the US via Bundlebox *. I love it to bits so far but as there are no UK operators offering 3G services for the iPad in the UK the experience is a little incomplete.

I was mulling this over a few days ago, while frantically refreshing my shipping status, when I came across a thread stating that there was no real difference between a Micro SIM and a standard SIM card. Much as the old style SIM cards were the same size as credit cards the SIM itself stays around the SIM size but there’s just less plastic! They advised that it should be possible to trim an existing SIM card and put it into an iPad.

I was keen to try this out but didn’t want to risk cutting up my iPhone SIM or having to sign up for an expensive PAYG service that includes a wireless broadband card. It was then that I chanced upon these Vodafone SIM cards on eBay

They’re Vodafone PAYG SIMs for Broadband Modems which contain £15 of preloaded credit. That translates to 1 gigabyte of data allowance and best of all, the data doesn’t expire! The current trend of PAYG plans is to expire credit after a month, see the AT&T iPad 250meg plan, so this is particularly useful. I’m sure the UK plans will follow suit. Also note that the AT&T plan in the US is $14.99 for 250meg/month. If the UK plans match this then that works out 4x as expensive as the eBay SIMs.

The SIM was through my letterbox when I got home today so I simply popped the AT&T SIM out of the iPad, placed it over the contacts in the Vodafone SIM, used a pair of scissors to trim around it and then placed it back in the SIM tray. It took a gentle push to get it in as the cut was slightly off but when I pushed it into the iPad it slid in smoothly.

After that, the iPad showed a connection to Vodafone on the 3G network but alas it couldn’t download anything. I needed to set up the APN. As always, Google provides and this is the information you’ll need if using one of the Vodafone SIMs:

APN: pp.internet
Username: web
Password: web

Once those were entered the data connection sprung into life and I was able to access the web as usual. No need to register with Vodafone!

So what now? The eBay supplier didn’t tell me the details of the account the SIM is tied to or the IMSI and I doubt he even has those details so once the 1gig of credit is used up I think the SIM is useless. No matter! I’ve ordered another few to last me over the coming months until I can work out the best course of action.

Will Vodafone close this loophole? Possibly. They can work out from the IMEI that it’s an iPad, not a Broadband modem. Will they? Noone knows. It’s a fair bit of administration and this may not be a particularly widespread hack so it might not be worth their time. (Trust me, I work in Telecoms, I know how long it takes telcos to get things like this sorted. I once waited 8 weeks for a customer to open Port 80 in their firewall).

So it’s maybe not a long term solution but until we see what plans the operators are offering it’s certainly the best one I can find. In the long term it may be better to go with non iPad plans and just reuse the SIM.

* (Note, Bundlebox are having problems with Apple cancelling their iPad shipments. By all means give them a try but beware your iPad order may be cancelled. For other items, they’re great as well)

3 Responses to “Using a PAYG standard SIM in an iPad 3G”

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Neil Hunt Inglis and Robert McGovern, Alex Rozanski. Alex Rozanski said: RT @neilinglis: Blog post on getting PAYG SIMs working in a UK iPad. [...]

  2. Hi,

    Thanks for the info – you could probably put the sim in a phone (for the text verification) and register it with vodafone online and charge it from there… assuming its not registered…


  3. i reg mine in the dongle then took it straight out into a dell mini 10 no problems for last 2+ years using it this way never had to top up and used it quiet a bit

    all cut down now and in the ipad

    is yours still working?

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