An Access Point Name (APN) is a point of entry onto a network for a GSM device. In other words, when a device is connected to an APN, it can exchange data with the APN’s associated network. The benefits of APNs are comprehensive, ranging from better connectivity to massive cost-savings. But, for the purposes of this article, we will simply look at how APNs do what they do, and why it's so important that they are manageable.
Contrary to popular belief, it’s the SIM that is registered to the APN, not the device. Although you configure APN settings on a device, the device itself cannot connect to an APN. A registered SIM, on the other hand, can access the APN’s associated network from any device that has been configured with the SIM’s APN settings.
Before a carrier allows a device to access its network, it first checks it’s credentials. If the carrier picks up that the SIM in the device is linked to an APN, the carrier will retrieve necessary credentials from the APN’s associated network and use this information to determine:
- Which IP addresses should be assigned to the wireless device,
- Which security methods should be used, and;
- Which private network the device should be connected to (if any).
As complicated as this process sounds, it's even more amazing that this all happens in a matter of microseconds!
A step by step example
A mobile device needs to exchange information with another device or system. To do so, the device attempts to initiate a session on the SIM’s associated network (eg. MTN). The network carrier runs a quick “background check” on the SIM’s credentials to see if the SIM is registered to an APN (private or public). If the associated APN is public, the carrier network will match the SIM’s MSISDN number with the correct IP address. If the APN is private, the server will request credentials from a private ‘parent’ network. The parent network then provides the network carrier with the associated private IP address. Once connected, the carrier network will redirect all device traffic to the private network and the device will have access to the pooled data account of that APN.
Here's the honest truth: APNs work better when you can manage them
With an APN, your employees and devices can exchange key information via your organisation’s private network, securely from virtually anywhere in the world. But APNs work a lot better when you can manage them remotely.
Trinity IoT is around unlocking the true value of APNs. To this extent, we’ve developed a comprehensive self-service portal that enables you to manage your APN user base, set up SIM quotas and create data budgets online. Analytics tools and custom reports highlight irregularities and provide you with the insight you need to get the most out of your budget. SIMs can be enrolled and managed in bulk or on a per SIM level. Dashboards display your live APN usage from one or multiple network providers, with options to drill down into more detail.
To learn more about our APN Management Software schedule a demo with someone from our team.