What's an Access Point Name (APN) and How Do I Change It?

Definition and explanation of access point names (APNs)

Access point network

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In the tech world, APN stands for Access Point Name. It's a setting on mobile phones that the phone carrier uses to set up a connection to the gateway between the carrier's network and the internet. The APN finds the IP address that the device is identified with on the network, determines if a private network is needed, chooses the correct security settings, and more.

The APN for T-Mobile is epc.tmobile.com, an older one is wap.voicestream.com, and the T-Mobile Sidekick APN is hiptop.voicestream.com. The APN name for AT&T modems and netbooks is isp.cingular and the AT&T iPad APN is broadband. The APN for Verizon is vzwinternet for internet connections and vzwims for text messaging.

APN may stand for other things too, even if they have nothing to do with mobile phones, such as Advanced Practice Nurse.

The Different APN Settings

There are few important APN settings that should be understood before changing these settings:

  • APN: In the U.S., the APN name is often wholesale.
  • APN type: Generic, supl, mms, and wap are the four APN types. Use Generic if there are problems when setting up these options.
  • MMSC: This stands for Multimedia Messaging Service and is only necessary when using MMS. It's a requirement on most MVNOs (mobile virtual network operators) that use MMS.
  • Proxy: Some mobile carriers use this setting to set up a proxy between the network and the internet, much like a proxy on a computer.

Switch APNs

Typically, APN is auto-configured or auto-detected for your phone or tablet, which means you don't need to make any changes to the APN settings.

Wireless carriers have different pricing for different APNs. Switching from one carrier to another can change you from one type of data plan to another. It can also cause problems and additional charges on your wireless bill, so changing the APN isn't advised.

However, there are a few reasons to switch or modify the APN:

  • The APN settings are not correct and give an error message that it could not activate a cellular data network. This may be because you are not subscribed to a cellular data service.
  • You have an unlocked phone and want to use it with a different carrier.
  • You're on a prepaid plan and don't want to spend minutes on mobile data.
  • You're traveling outside of your wireless provider's service area and want to avoid data roaming charges.

Learn how to change APN settings on your device to avoid problems and error messages.

Verizon Wireless

Verizon Wireless uses these APN names:

  • vzwims: Connects to IMS services and is required for text messaging.
  • vzwadmin: Used for administrative functions.
  • vzwinternet: Used with general internet connections.
  • vzwapp: Used with PDA data services.
  • vzwcf: Used for content filtering connections.
  • xx.vzwentp: Connects to mobile private networks with an enterprise MPN identifier.
  • xx.vzwstatic: Used for static IP address connections with a static IP pool identifier.

Verizon's website shows how to edit Verizon Wireless APNs through VZAccess Manager as well as how to change the APN settings a Jetpack hotspot can use and how to edit APNs in Windows 10.

AT&T

wap.cingular, isp.cingular, and blackberry.net are some of the ATN types for AT&T devices. Read more about them on the AT&T PDP and APN Types page.