What Is an APN?

So, what is an APN? An Access Point Name (APN) allows device’s network to connect to the internet. With the APN settings in place, your device builds a connection to a carrier’s gateway. Part of this process involves the carrier using a defined APN to choose the assigned IP address(s) and security settings where applicable.

You can manually add an access point name to IoT devices by adding the network’s information. Without the proper information, your device can lose some of its capabilities, including some of the most important for IoT devices. For instance, the device might not be able to send information to its central hub. Since this capability is at the heart of IoT solutions, adding an APN is important.

As connected devices have become more widespread, OEMs, VARs, and Distributors can choose whichever carrier they’d like. It also allows them to switch more easily between one carrier and another. To gain access to a carrier’s internet capabilities, you need to properly input the settings.

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Types of APNs

Now we’ve covered what an APN is in general, but what is a private APN? There are two general types of APNs: those that connect to the public internet and those that connect to private internet. You’ll also notice that static and dynamic IP addresses play a role in public and private APNs. Dynamic IP addresses can change with each data session, while static IP addresses are claimed by one device.

  • Public APN

    This is what most people refer to when discussing APNs.

  • Public APN with Static IP

    This uses a static IP address instead of dynamic.

  • Private APN

    With a private APN, the device can be connected to an internal network through a gateway/VPN.

  • Private APN with Static IP

    In this case, the gateway/VPN assigns a private static IP address.

What’s the Difference Between APN and VPN?

Sometimes private APNs are mistaken for Virtual Private Networks (VPNs). However, a VPN has different security measures than a private APN. Private APNs allow you to rely on certain private IPs to protect your information (via NAT – Network Address Translation). On the other hand, a VPN has capabilities to protect information that is being transferred across a public network.

Benefits of a Private APN for IoT Security

You can protect which devices have access to your information through a private APN. With this private APN, only SIMs/Devices with the programmed and/or defined APN can have access to soliciting service from the defined servers/endpoints via the internet. You can’t have a private APN without a VPN tunnel to handle the traffic. Otherwise, your carrier would just be recreating a private network for every customer that asked.

There are also dedicated APNs for IoT devices which are different from the APN that a consumer device would use. This kind of APN does separate the traffic. However it is still shared across IoT users for a carrier.

Note: APNs can be configured to have defined Authentication settings for greater security such as NULL, ANY, or Defined. If “Defined”, the User Name and Password must be entered.

How do I Change My IoT Device’s APN?

Most IoT devices require you to manually add the APN and other setting information. Based on device type and carrier, provided the APN isn’t hardcoded on the device, if the APN field is left blank, Dynamic APN might be an option that will auto-populate the respective APN based on how the SIM is defined in the carrier account settings.

Here are the steps:

1. First, find the name of your carrier’s APN on their website (or managed account)

Typically the page with their APN’s name will also give you information on other settings, such as:

Username

IP address

Password

If you should enable data roaming

Carriers might also include other miscellaneous configuration notes, so read through the whole page to make sure you understand all the settings.

2 .Second, on your IoT device, navigate to the APN settings.

If you struggle to find the settings area, turn to the device’s instruction manual or the device’s manufacturer for help.

3. Add the carrier’s settings to your device.

Make sure you enter in all the information exactly as it appears from your carrier,

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