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Dr Mike J Smith
Kingston University

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What's in an APN?

Fri, 17 Feb 2012

APN, or Access Point Name, allows a data connection for your mobile phone or more specifically (and according to Wikipedia):

"It is a configurable network identifier used by a mobile device when connecting to a GSM carrier. The carrier will then examine this identifier to determine what type of network connection should be created."

Now that would have been a useful piece of information to know when I was in Sweden.... the story goes back a few months to the merger of T-Mobile and Orange. Now I have a contract with Virgin Mobile who are a virtual carrier piggy-backing on T-Mobile. The merger eventually opened up the Orange network to Virgin customers, however in order to do this you needed to enable roaming on your phone and allow the network to be automatically selected. No problem... easily done and voice and SMS worked fine. Except data didn't and so I switched my phone to always use T-Mobile.

Fast forward to Sweden trip where I checked the roaming agreements in place in Sweden (and the cost). I landed... turned phone on, switched to auto-select network and voice/SMS worked fine. I purchased 5Mb of data and.... yup, it didn't work. Now there aren't that many settings on the phone!! So after spending 10 minutes going over things again and again and ended upon looking at the APN. And, lo and behold, Virgin and T-Mobile were both listed, but T-Mobile was selected. Because my data contract was specific to Virgin I wasn't being allowed to roam across on to another network, so switching it worked a treat. Which of course now means I can use roaming across to Orange back in the UK.

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