Verizon iPad 2 Displaying Strange Roaming Behavior

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If some 11,000 page views and counting is any indication, a discussion at Apple Support suggests that at least a small number of Verizon iPad 2s are having difficulties accessing Verizon’s network.

The problems begin as soon as iPad 2 owners activate an account with Verizon. Up until then, “Verizon” will be displayed in the menu bar for the 3G network, but after a data plan is set up and activated that changes to “Roaming.” Further, the affected iPads will not be able to access 3G unless “Data Roaming” is turned on in Cellular Data settings. Finally, some iPads also exhibit problems if 3G is switched off, or if the iPad is shut down with 3G off, requiring 3G to be turned on and the iPad to be restarted to regain network access.

Reported conversations with Apple and Verizon tech support give varying answers on the problem and which party is to blame, but the issue may have to do with the Preferred Roaming List. The PRL is a database for determining how the device connects to the network, including provider identifiers. For some reason, some iPad 2s are not recognizing Verizon towers. According to Verizon, consumers are not charged for data roaming in the U.S., so arguably this aspect of the problem is minor.

However, Apple appears to be taking it very seriously. Users are reporting Apple Stores exchanging affected Verizon iPad 2s for new ones, and that was my experience. In the Apple Store I visited, I noted Verizon iPads that had no problem correctly connecting to the 3G network, while mine remained in roaming mode. Apple tech support personnel were polite and helpful, but were unable to fix the problem. Apparently, Apple is now “capturing” iPads exhibiting this behavior and replacing them, though I was told that a replacement iPad would not necessarily work correctly, either.

It did not. After calling Verizon and transferring the cellular data account to the new iPad 2, the same behavior manifested. I was transferred to Verizon tech support, where the process of resetting network settings and  re-provisioning the account was repeated, but again without success. It was suggested I update to iOS 4.3.1, which, of course, I was already running. There were no other suggested fixes.

At this point impacted iPad 2 owners can try either returning their devices, or hope that Boy Genius Report is right concerning a rumored update to iOS. Version 4.3.2 supposedly will be launched in the next two weeks. The update  will “include a few enhancements, address security issues, and it will also fix several bugs that have affected users.” Those considering a Verizon iPad 2 might want to wait and see if the network issues are resolved with this update, or reconcile themselves to the idea of an ever-roaming iPad 2. Anyone having this problem? Share you stories and possible fixes in the comments.

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