Despite AT&T's recent marketing, which states that 97% of all Americans are covered by AT&T's 3G network, a somewhat surprising number of reports continue to surface from new iPad 3G owners that are being denied the ability to initiate a data plan for their new iPad. During the activation/signup process for an iPad 3G data plan, AT&T is performing checks on the addresses of new customers and refusing to initiate service for those that fall outside of the current coverage provided by AT&T's 3G network. Yes, you heard right: AT&T, who has taken considerable heat for their lack of 3G coverage, is highlighting that fact by turning away customers on that basis.
The issue is that many of these customers are well aware of the fact that their home address is not within AT&T's 3G coverage area, but want to purchase an iPad data plan nonetheless. After all, the vast majority of iPad owners will likely choose to use their WiFi networks at home, while reserving the use of their iPad 3G data plans for when they are on the road or otherwise away from home. Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, the iPad 3G will fail over to AT&T's EDGE network when 3G coverage is not available and one can assume that customers who escape the reach of AT&T's 3G network likely fall within the EDGE network and could successfully (albeit slowly) use their iPad on that network.
For those affected by this situation, a possible solution has come to light. Early reports indicated that AT&T was validating the credit card billing address and evaluating service qualification based on such. More recent reports, however, suggest that AT&T may not be validating the billing address for credit card validation purposes and may instead simply be using this as the device service address.
By entering an alternative service address that falls within AT&T's 3G coverage area, some iPad owners have been able to successfully initiate service and simply updated their billing address back to the correct information once signup is complete. In fact, once the account is established, the Cellular Data Plan settings in the iPad allow users to distinguish their service address and their billing address.
This workaround may also work for those who use a PO Box for their credit card billing addresses.
Under the Mobile Telecommunications Sourcing Act (MTSA) of 2002, AT&T is required to capture and maintain a Place of Primary Use (PPU) address for all of its customers. PPU is defined as a valid street (physical) address within the defined licensed service area for the customer's home market. This explains why AT&T requires a valid service address from customers with PO Box billing addresses associated with their credit cards, but doesn't explain why AT&T isn't providing this dual address distinction during the signup process, and provides no clarity why customer's whose home addresses fail outside the 3G area are being denied.