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I purchased my new Apple Watch Series 3 with LTE on launch day, but couldn’t activate LTE on it because of an authentication error. After ten days of back and forth with T-Mobile support, I figured out a solution. In this article, I will tell you how to fix the activation error and enable LTE on your Apple Watch.
How you are supposed to activate LTE on your Apple Watch
Assuming everything else is in order, you can enable LTE on your Apple Watch during the initial pairing process. I skipped that step and instead, decided to do it later using the Watch app on my iPhone.
Inside the Watch app, I scrolled down to “Cellular.” From there, I followed the wizard, which loaded a T-Mobile web page that asked me to enter the last four digits of my social security number. I have a T-Mobile business account, so I had to enter the last four digits of my company’s Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN). After entering it, I instantly got an “authentication” error and a screen suggesting to call customer care.
Apple’s new eSim could be the culprit
The Apple Watch Series 3 has a so-called embedded SIM (eSIM) that has its own International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) number. Technically, it should be possible for a mobile carrier to enable LTE on your Apple Watch by adding the IMEI number to your phone plan. At least with T-Mobile that doesn’t seem to be the case. Instead, they require you to get a regular SIM card and add it to your account. Then they map your Apple Watch’s electronic ID (EID) to the new SIM card. Only then can you activate LTE on your Apple Watch.
T-Mobile customer care was unprepared
T-Mobile, like other mobile carriers, was utterly unprepared to deal with the activation issues. During the first few days after launch, T-Mobile didn’t even know what the problem was.
After a few days, they had solved the issue on their end but suggested that Apple still had an issue. A few days later, Apple had apparently resolved the issue on their end too. But only for residential customers, as there was still a problem with business accounts. Long story, short, after ten days and a fruitless visit to the T-Mobile store, I could activate LTE on my new Apple Watch Series 3.
How to fix the authentication error and activate LTE
Note: T-Mobile told me that the following steps should work with other mobile carriers as well.
To activate LTE on your Apple Watch Series 3 on the T-Mobile network, you need to get a new line and thus a new SIM card. Once that new line is active (can take up to two hours), provide T-Mobile with the EID number of your Apple Watch. You can find the