What Is an APN or Access Point Name?

Access Point Name or APN and is a connection point that enables devices to access the internet or connect to private networks via cellular networks. It is essential for cellular IoT devices as it determines the type of network access these devices acquire and brings more security. 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.  

An IoT device can be configured with one, two or more APNs. In order to access network resources, receive an IP address, or transfer data, devices have to be connected to an APN. The network can apply various rules to manage that traffic, during the data transmission through an APN. What’s APN might include settings for firewalls or M2M (machine-to-machine) data routing. The route that data travels is contingent on the APN to which the device is connected and its configuration on the network side.  

So, what is an APN in simple words? The APN is a gateway between your device and the network, whether that network is private or part of the internet. This gateway comes with particular settings and security instructions tailored to the requirements of the connected device. 

What Is the Example of APN? 

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

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.  

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 APN private solution 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.   

What Is the Difference between 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. 

What Are the Alternatives to Private APN? 

Despite the great configurability and security, private APNs can be costly in setting up with the request of an additional network infrastructure. There are several innovations nowadays that provide high privacy and WAN without the need for a private APN: 

Shared APN Private Network A shared private APN is very similar to a public APN in that it doesn't require additional settings. It is supported by a customizable SDN, which enables virtual segments with different policies and settings. Users can manage their WAN and customize it if necessary. 

Cloud-to-Device Messaging Within use cases where devices are not constantly connected, such as unlocking or opening doors, a persistent network is unnecessary. For these scenarios, short-command APIs are utilized. There is no need to maintain virtual network tunnels, requiring only a device ID and a message to communicate.  

Application-Layer Solutions Application-layer solutions can be an alternative to APN in some cases as well. For instance, the MQTT protocol can replace cloud-to-device messaging.  Device-based VPN or WAN solutions, where the device connects to the network over a VPN or similar protocol, are the other options. 

Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) VPNs enable privacy and security for transmitting data without the need for a specific private APN. VPNs are widely used and supported for secure communication. 

Network as a Service (NaaS) Network as a Service (NaaS) provides a very flexible, subscription-based model for network services. Businesses can lease network infrastructure and services from a provider, reducing potential expenses for network hardware. It may involve managed private APNs, VPNs, and SDN solutions, for scalable and customizable network options. 

Edge Computing Edge computing involves can complement or substituting traditional network infrastructure, especially for applications requiring rapid data processing and response times. It involves processing data closer to the source, such as on IoT devices or local servers, rather than transmitting it to a centralized data center. 

Hybrid Solutions Another option is to combine some existing technologies such as SDNs with edge computing or VPNs with cloud-to-device messaging, which brings more flexibility to the users.  

What Is the Difference between IP Address and APN? 

APN and IP address are both used to connect your device to the internet, however in different ways: APN provides a guideline to devices on how to connect to the network and the type of connection needed. When a device is connected, it acquires a unique IP address from the network, which is a virtual address on the internet. In this way, the APN configures the connection, while the IP is identification on that connection. 

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. 

What is APN on My Phone? 

APN on your phone is the setting that enables you to connect the device to the internet via the cellular networks. This configures your phone to use cellular data for internet access. As already mentioned, APN settings comprise the APN name, username, password, and other details necessary for network access. 

How Do I Set My APN Settings? 

If you need to set or change your APN configurations, follow these basic steps:  

APN Android Settings: 

  • Go to "Settings". 

  • Tap on "Network & Internet" or "Connections". 

  • Select "Mobile Network". 

  • Tap on "Access Point Names". 

  • Press the "Add" button or the "+" icon to create a new APN. 

  • Enter the required APN settings provided by your carrier. 

  • Save the settings and select the new APN. 


  • Go to "Settings". 

  • Tap on "Cellular" or "Mobile Data". 

  • Select "Cellular Data Network" or "Mobile Data Network". 

  • Enter the APN settings provided by your carrier. 

  • Save the settings. 

What is the APN of a SIM Card? 

The APN of a SIM card involves specific Access Point Name configurations that are associated with that SIM card’s carrier network. The mobile network verifies if the APN  matches the SIM card options. If it doesn't, the data connection will not take place. Thus, APN settings on the device should be double-checked for accuracy. 

What is the APN for Wi-Fi? 

Wi-Fi connections do not involve APN configurations. Access point name settings are required for cellular networks to connect devices to the internet via the carrier’s data network. On the other hand, Wi-Fi implies settings like SSID and password, to connect wirelessly. 

What Is an IoT APN? 

As with smartphones, APN in IoT connects cellular-based IoT devices to the internet or a private network. A connected device which uses cellular data needs to pass identification and provide the network with data on the type of connection. With APN this data then goes to the cellular carrier.  As IoT projects need secure and accurate data transfer, a properly set APN together with other practices helps to meet the necessary expectations. 

APN Settings and Roaming 

When traveling abroad, APN settings often need to be updated to access data services with local networks. Despite the fact that roaming agreements between carriers enable automatic settings, in some cases, manual updates may be required.  

What Happens if APN Is Wrong? 

When APN is incorrect, the device may not connect with network servers properly, which leads to low or now internet. Let’s go through the whole list of issues that may appear if APN is set incorrectly:  The device may fail to connect to the internet. Multimedia messages may not be sent or received. Access to specific network services may be restricted. Incorrect settings may lead to unintended data usage and higher charges. 

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