An Access Point Name (APN) is something which acts as a gateway between the mobile network and the computer network. For a mobile the phone, the APN is what provides the link between the phone and the mobile tower for the Internet access through the GPRS, EDGE, 3G or 4G network. The APN not just acts as the connector to the mobile network, but also an identifier so that the mobile network carrier can determine what type of connection has to be created between the carrier and the mobile device.
There are a lot of properties that have to be changed based on the Access Point Name, thus it is an important part for the creation of a data network connectivity. The IP addresses to be assigned to the wireless device, the security methods to be used, the type of connectivity is all decided based on the APN set by the user in the mobile device.
The APN from its own side, would identify the Packet Data Network that a mobile data user would want to connect to, and in addition to that, the APN is what would define the type of service – WAP, MMS, data access network such as GPRS etc.
For the phones which come with the SIM embedded in them, for example the CDMA mobile phones, the APN is pre-configured or auto-configured and the phone too identifies the APN automatically, and the user doesn’t have to change anything, and will be able to connect to the Internet with ease. There are multiple APNs for each network carrier, and each of them are for a different type of connection and sometimes, the pricing changes with the APN, and thus there has to be a proper check done before selecting the APN because it could add unnecessary costs to your bill if you are using the wrong APN.
Structure of an APN
- Network identifier: the external network to which the GGSN is connected.
- Operator identifier the specific operator’s packet doamin network in which GGSN is located.
Now, the most important part. How to change the Internet settings / APN settings on your mobile phone. This has two parts – finding out the APN and then, setting the APN in the Internet settings on your phone. To find the APN, the best way always is to contact the customer support, because based on your data plan and the type of connectivity, you are provided with the Access Point Name. To set it up, you will have the option in the Settings under Data network settings where you have to make a new APN setting and enter the APN and save it.
Setting up APN on Android / iPhone / Windows Phone
For an Android phone, you will have to go to Settings > Wireless & Networks > More > Mobile networks > Access Point Names. This is where you have to create a new APN and set it up. The location for APN settings is same for most of the Android smartphones, but if there are exceptions, you would still have to look for the options in the Wireless and Network settings itself.
For an Apple iPhone, you need to go to Settings > General > Network > Cellular Data Network. Here, you would be able to find the option to set up a new APN, or edit the current one.
For the iPad, the location for the APN settings section is: Settings > Cellular Data > APN Settings
For Windows Phone, you need to go to Settings > Mobile and here, the last option Add APN is where you can go to add the new APN and save it.
* Do remember that if you are using an APN for the GPRS/EDGE connectivity, and if in the mobile network settings you select the WCDMA or LTE network, then the data connection won’t happen. If at all the connection happens, you would be charged by the network provider for using the higher speed data network although the APN is for the low speed one.