What Does APN Stand for?

APN, which is a short form for Access Point Name, is a gateway that enables devices such as smartphones and tablets access the internet or connect to private networks via cellular networks. It simplifies data transfer and communication between the device and network, determines the type of network access and provides security measures. Access Point Name defines the connectivity settings. As the APN name is specific for each MNO, any time the carrier is changed a new APN is required.  The sample of APN looks like “Internet.mcc310.mnc070.3gppnetwork.org”, carrying basic information about the gateway.   

What the APN Structure Looks Like? 

The APN structure has a set format comprising: 

  1. The network identifier. It shows the external network that the gateway connects to 

  2. Operator identifier. It indicates the MNO associated with this gateway and consists of Mobile Network Code and Mobile Country Code in the form of 3-digit numbers. typically represented by three-digit numbers.  

  3. Data standard. APNs end with specific data standards, for example, A ".gprs" and ".3gppnetwork.org". 

The Basic APN Types Explained 

There are two major types of APNs:  

  1. Public APN enables devices connection to the public internet, assigning dynamic IP addresses from a pool of available addresses. At this point, the IP address alters with each connection session and returns to the pool when the device doesn’t need the connection. There is also a subtype for public APN called public APNs with static IP addresses, which sets a fixed IP address during each connection process. 

  2. Private APN, in contrast to the above, provides more security and customization options. They started its adoption within corporate devices. This type of APN implies specific passwords as well as filtering web pages for access. Usually, the devices related to private APN get a dynamic public IP address from the available pool. However, it's possible to obtain a private static IP address as well for connecting to remote private networks.  

APN vs VPN 

These are two different notions.  

  • Private APN is a kind of identifier of a gateway within the carrier’s cellular network, which also applies specific policies. It may allow and forbid access to the public internet. 

  • VPN or virtual private network operates on the top of a public internet connection and sets a secure connection between two different networks. A VPN encrypts data transferred over the internet and ensures a higher level of security compared to the public internet path. 

While APNs help separate customers in different IP address spaces and address the challenges of dynamic IP addresses in remote access for IoT manufacturers, there are alternative solutions available. APN settings need to be configured on the device to establish the connection, while VPN settings involve the setup of encryption, server addresses, and authentication credentials. APN is specific to cellular networks, while VPN can be used across various network types for remote access and data protection.

How to Change APN? 

Adding or changing the APN on devices usually requires manual configuration. The APN settings can be obtained from the carrier's website or managed account, where the necessary information, such as the APN name, username, IP address, password, and data roaming settings, can be found.