How to Fix a 'Could Not Activate Cellular Data Network' Error on iOS

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If your iPhone has the "Could Not Activate Cellular Data Network" error, you won't be able to connect to 4G or 5G wireless networks. This error doesn't interfere with Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connections, but when you're on the go, you need cellular data. Here's how to fix a "Could Not Activate Cellular Data Network" error on iOS.

Why Does My iPhone Say "Could Not Activate Cellular Data Network"?

When your iPhone gives the "Could Not Activate Cellular Data Network" error, it means your phone can't connect to your phone company's wireless data network. While you may still be able to make calls, the error means checking email, browsing the web, and using apps on 4G or 5G won't work.

Frustrated man looking at his iPhone

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How Do You Activate Cellular Network on iPhone?

There are a number of issues that can cause this problem. We'll explain them below. To fix your iPhone cellular data network error, follow these steps, in this order.

  1. Confirm Airplane Mode Is Off. Airplane Mode turns off all networking features of your iPhone. If you've accidentally turned it on, cellular data networks won't be available. This is an easy fix: just turn Airplane Mode off.

  2. Restart iPhone. You'd be surprised how often simply restarting your iPhone can fix problems. A restart clears your iPhone's active memory (but you won't lose data), which is where temporary bugs can crop up. Honestly, a restart probably won't solve the "Could Not Activate Cellular Data Network" error, but it's easy and fast, so it's worth a try.

  3. Turn Cellular Data On. While Airplane Mode turns off all networking, the iPhone also lets you to turn off network types one by one. It's possible you can't connect to cellular data networks because you've turned off cellular data. To fix that, go to Settings > Cellular > move the Cellular Data slider to on/green.

    If the slider was already set to on/green, try moving it to off/white, waiting a few seconds, and then putting it back to on/green. This might reset your connection and resolve the error.

  4. Remove and Re-Insert SIM Card. Your iPhone's SIM Card helps it connects to your phone company's data network. If It's got a problem, you might have a problem with cellular data. To fix this, remove the SIM card from your iPhone and reinsert it. If this was the problem, you should be able to connect to a cellular data network in a few seconds.

  5. Update Carrier Settings. Your iPhone has hidden settings that control how it works with your phone company network called Carrier Settings. If the settings on your phone are out of date, which could explain the cellular data error. A quick carrier settings update—just connect to Wi-Fi; doesn't even require a restart!—could solve it.

  6. Update iPhone Operating System. Still no luck? Time to try updating your operating system. Each new version of the iOS brings bug fixes and new features. It could be the cause of your error is fixed in the latest OS update. Since you can't connect to a cellular network, you'll need to find a Wi-Fi network. Once you do, update iOS on your iPhone and see if you're back in business.

  7. Reset Network Settings. Your iPhone stores lots of small settings and preferences related to how it connects to networks under the general heading of Network Settings. If one of those settings gets damaged in some way, it could block your access to cellular data networks. Reset your iPhone's network settings and you'll create new settings and could fix the problem.

    When you do this, you'll lose all stored networking settings and passwords. So, you'll need to re-pair Bluetooth devices and re-enter Wi-Fi passwords.

  8. Call Your Phone Company. If nothing else has worked so far, it's time to call your phone company. Maybe the problem isn't your phone; maybe the problem is at the phone company side and only they can help you.

  9. Get Support From Apple. If you haven't fixes the problem yet, it's probably more complicated than you an handle on your own. Whether it's a hardware or software problem, it's time to bring in the experts. You can visit Apple or make an appointment for in-person support at your closest Apple Store.

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