How to Use the iPad 3G Without a Data Plan

By John Papiewski

Using a cellular provider’s data plan, an iPad 3G connects to the Internet for Web browsing and many other data services. The data plan lets you stay connected anywhere you have a clear cellular signal. There are, however, times you may want to turn the iPad’s 3G connection off and use Wi-Fi instead; for example, while traveling you may have hefty cellular roaming charges. Wi-Fi gives you all the benefits of Internet access without running up your cellular data bill.


  • Wi-Fi and cellular data are completely separate services. Turning cellular data off does not affect how your iPad works, although Wi-Fi has a limited range of a few hundred feet for any given network. You can reactivate cellular data access at any time.
  • Although turning the iPad’s cellular data off does not affect its built-in Global Positioning System, the iOS Maps app needs continuous data from the Internet to work properly. There are, however, map apps that work without Wi-Fi or a cellular connection, such as Google Maps, CoPilot Premium and Garmin’s Navigon. You may need to pre-load map information to your iPad before traveling.

Disable Cellular Data, Enable Wi-Fi

Tap the Settings app to start it.

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Tap Cellular Data to view the Cellular Data settings screen. Slide the Cellular Data slider to the left to turn the cellular data service off.

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Tap Wi-Fi to view Wi-Fi settings. Slide the Wi-Fi slider to the right to turn the iPad's Wi-Fi service on.

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Tap the name of the local Wi-Fi network to which you have access.

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Enter the Wi-Fi network password when the screen prompts you, and then tap Join. Click the Home button to return to the iPad’s Home screen.

Enable Location Services

When Cellular Data is turned off, you should enable Wi-Fi Location Services. In the absence of cellular data, Wi-Fi can enhance your iPad’s ability to pinpoint your location.

Tap the Settings app.

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Tap Privacy, and then tap Location Services.

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Tap System Services.

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Slide the Wi-Fi Networking slider to the right to enable Wi-Fi location services.