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's carrier uses to setup a connection to the gateway between the carrier's network and the internet.

The APN is used to find the right IP address that the device should be identified with on the network, determine if a private network is needed, choose the correct security settings that should be used, and more.

For example, T-Mobile's APN 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 while the AT&T iPad APN is broadband. Verizon's is vzwinternet for internet connections and vzwims for text messaging.

Note: 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 Access Point Name settings that should be understood before we look at changing them:

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

Switching APNs

Typically, your 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 to another can change you from one type of data plan to another, but make a mistake and it can also cause problems and additional charges on your wireless bill, so fiddling with the APN isn't advised.

However, there are a few reasons people switch or modify their APN:

  • The APN settings are not correct and you get error messages like "Could not activate cellular data network. 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 your minutes on mobile data.
  • You're traveling outside of your wireless provider's service area and want to avoid data roaming charges.

Tip: Be sure to see how to change APN settings on your device if you're interested in doing that.

Verizon Wireless

  • vzwims: Connects to IMS services and is required for text messaging.
  • vzwadmin: Administrative functions.
  • vzwinternet: General internet connections.
  • vzwapp: PDA data services.
  • vzwcf: Used for content filtering connections.
  • xx.vzwentp: Connects to mobile private networks where "xx" is the enterprise MPN identifier.
  • xx.vzwstatic: Used for static IP address connections where "xx" is replaced by 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 your 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 at AT&T's PDP and APN Types page.