What Is an APN, and How Is It Used in IoT?

September 6, 2023

What Is an APN?

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An Access Point Name (APN) is the gateway an IoT device’s cellular network uses to connect to the internet. Any IoT or mobile device that generates data must be configured with a valid APN.

In general, an APN should contain two parts (though they’re not a must):

  • The network identifier, which names the network
  • The operator identifier, which designates the mobile network operator (MNO)

When connecting to the internet, the carrier will determine the IP address to assign to the IoT device, including security parameters.  

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Types of APNs

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There are two types of APNs: private and public. Private APNs use static IP addresses, and public APNs use dynamic IP addresses.

It is easier for an Internet of Things (IoT) device to access the internet through a public APN, as it is the default option for SIM subscriptions. However, public APNs are less secure than private APNs.

In addition to better security, a private APN offers more customization. It is also cost-effective, limiting the likelihood of financially damaging security breaches.

When using a private APN, the SIM subscription must be provisioned on the HLR/HSS and the specific gateway, and the IoT device’s settings must match. Another factor that businesses must consider is whether they are using a static or dynamic IP address with their public or private APNs. As the names imply, static addresses link with only one device, but dynamic ones will change after each data session.

The Relationship between IoT and APN 

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When a business acquires an IoT device, it does not come preconfigured for connectivity — the company will need to set up the device. Sometimes, a device may be preconfigured for a custom private APN. However, for the most part, a cellular IoT device will need an APN to connect to the network.

An APN is a vital entry point for IoT devices to reach the network. It defines various settings, including the type of connectivity and quality of service (QoS) that the device receives. Without an APN, an IoT solution may lose several core capabilities, like sending information to its central hub. Moreover, some IoT devices won’t be able to connect to the internet through the network if they do not have access to a correctly installed APN.

IoT APN and Security 

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IoT network security should be a priority for every business, especially as cyberattacks continue to rise. These deployments widen the attack surface by creating multifold entry points for hackers to obtain sensitive information. For businesses building their IoT products, there are regulatory hurdles they must address before going to market.

Nevertheless, private APNs enable IoT businesses to utilize tailor-made firewall rules and IP addresses instead of default settings. For those launching a new IoT solution, a private APN will restrict access to the public internet. In addition, a private APN can be coupled with a virtual private network (VPN), further enhancing an IoT device’s security.

Learn More about IoT APNs and Our Enterprise-Grade Security 

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Speak with our IoT connectivity experts and request an IoT connectivity starter kit.