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What is Managed APN, and How Does it Help with Mobile Data Connectivity?

14 September, 2021 | Isil Sumer
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Access Point Name (APN) management is a part of the cellular IoT solution that allows a device to connect with the internet. Managing the APN allows organisations to ensure the reliability and security of the mobile device network. This post summarises what a managed APN is and how it helps mobile connectivity.

What is an APN?

APN stands for Access Point Name — the gateway that connects the mobile network with the internet. It shows the identity of your mobile carrier so the device knows which network to connect to. 

The carrier or connectivity management platform then assigns the device an IP address and the corresponding encryption method. This information is stored in the SIM card so the mobile device only needs to read it.

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There are different types of APN: 

  • Public APN: This is the default option that comes with all SIM subscriptions from providers. These settings enable users to access the open internet just by adding the SIM to the device. For many IoT applications, public APN connectivity is more than sufficient. It is also cost-effective and very reliable. 
  • Private APN: This type is used to access a specific mobile network. The SIM subscription is provisioned in a specific APN gateway and requires configuration on the IoT device. Since it does not use the open internet, the private network is often more secure. The APN gateway only provisions SIM subscriptions authorised by the customer. 
  • Managed APN: A connectivity service provider offers a fully managed custom APN on behalf of the customer. It is set up according to the client’s requirements and is essentially a Private APN that is managed as-a-service and offers additional functionality, management tools and control. A managed APN can be used across multiple mobile networks. It also allows for flexible IP management (fixed IP’s) as well as custom firewalls, VPN and data routing options. 

How does an APN work?

The APN is the collection of all the information the device uses to connect with the carrier’s network. The APN lists the address the device uses to connect to the network, the ports it uses to handle messages and which type of data this specific APN uses, among other things. 

An Access Point Name has two parts: 

  • The network identifier
  • The operator identifier. This, in turn, consists of two additional parts: 
    • The mobile network code (MNC)
    • The mobile country code (MCC)

What’s the use of APN in mobile?

The APN holds the information the device needs to connect to the internet. It contains the address the carrier uses to identify the device and to give it an internet connection. Normal consumer mobile phones will usually have APN settings right in the SIM. For IoT devices, these need to be configured on the device. Most IoT devices will allow for OTA (over the air) updates of APN settings so that these can be managed remotely.

Challenges and benefits of an APN

Traditional cellular carriers provide dynamic private IP addresses to SIM cards. This means that every time the phone sends data, it gets a different public IP address.These IPs are not unique to the device. The next time the device sends data it will get another address, and another device gets the old IP. 

This is no problem for certain devices that don’t need to access remotely via a specific IP address. But for some devices, one of the issues of dynamic IPs is that they make it practically impossible to troubleshoot remotely. Managed Private APNs usually offer private IP addresses within a set IP range. 

For organisations with a fleet of mobile devices, there are several factors that make public and private APNs a challenge: 

  • Difficult for remote troubleshooting
  • Lack of control over SIM costs due to lack of visibility
  • No customisation options
  • Lack of control over data usage
  • Only supports one network
  • Problems scaling up SIMs
  • Unable to set spend limits on SIM level

How a Managed APN helps with IoT security

Managed APNs offer several benefits in terms of data security compared to using the public APN:

  • Only provisioned devices can access the external corporate infrastructure since it is not exposed to the public internet. 
  • For companies with a fleet of mobile devices, managed APN provides a secure, private tunnel that only allows authorised traffic into the corporate network. 
  • Allows security customisations like network settings and type of encryption, thus enhancing the security of the connections. 
  • Allows IPsec VPN connections set up to dedicated IP end-points 
  • Provides complete visibility and control over the mobile fleet, enabling suspending and canceling accounts in the case of compromise.

SIMcontrol's Managed APN Solution and the benefits of the platform 

Organisations using IoT and mobile devices require connectivity reliability and cost control for various applications. SIMcontrol provides end-to-end connectivity for mobile and IoT devices as a fully managed APN solution. 

Some of the key features of the Managed APN platform include: 

  1. Centralised, easy-to-use management platform: the central dashboard provides visibility and control, enabling the management of SIMs from all networks on a single platform. It enables APN on prepaid and contract models. The platform includes in-depth reporting and analytics.
  2. State-of-the-art networking technology: the cloud-based infrastructure is easily scalable and includes customisable security features, like firewall rules and SIM IP options (static, dynamic). Enabled for 2G, 3G, LTE and NB-IoT devices. 
  3. Advanced monitoring and control: you can set SIM quotas and enable instant SIM disconnections when reaching the limit. The dashboard allows you to check SIM data usage almost in real-time and track the location of the different devices. 

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Summary

A managed APN service offers organisations the control, flexibility, security, and visibility they need over their mobile and IoT devices. It secures the data by controlling access to the customer network to provisioned devices. SIMcontrol Managed APN services allow organisations to know exactly how much they are spending on data, to scale up or down without the hassle of long-term APN contracts and to manage multiple networks on a secure and reliable connectivity solution. 

Learn more about how SIMcontrol enables reliable connectivity. Speak to a consultant today.

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