VPN vs APN – What Makes Them Different?

Network implementation ultimately defines its purpose and function. A VPN stands for Virtual Private Network, and it’s used to establish a private communication link between a group of users or a remote VPN server through a VPN client. Although APN sounds like some sub-category of VPN, it is completely different. APN vs VPN might be a question lingering in some minds, so here’s a rundown on what makes both of them different.

What is an APN?

APN is short for Access Point Network. It is an ‘access point’ described by a cellular network provider to give you access to the internet. APNs leverage wireless technology that your smartphone already uses to make a phone call or send texts by connecting to network towers. As a guest on the network, you can use the service provider’s configurations to set up an APN to access the internet. You will be assigned an IP address which is essential for browsing the internet.

The good news for you is that manual configuration is not required unless you want to change the settings. The SIM you insert into your phone contains all the data to set up the network provider’s settings in your phone.

You can check your APN settings by navigating through the cellular settings on your phone. It will contain settings like name, password, network type, and authentication type.

Private APN

The public APN allows anyone to connect and receive an IP address to access the internet. The network provider can also assign you a static IP address from a pool so that you always come online using that one IP address on reconnect.

A private APN, as the name implies, is accessible only to authenticated users. Organizations can also have partnerships with global carriers, enabling employees to continue accessing the private network overseas.

How Does an APN Differ from VPN?

The first apparent difference is that an APN is provided by whichever cellular network that you choose. Every cellular network has its own APN settings that automatically get loaded into your phone as soon as you have a SIM inside.

The other difference is that an APN is a gateway that gives you access to the internet, whereas a VPN creates a private network over the internet as a means of online security and privacy. One way to understand is that the ISP that you pay to use the internet acts as your gateway to the internet. It provides you with an IP address that is essential for any device to function on a network. Similarly, the cellular carrier provides you the means to access the internet by using APN technology.

You can use a VPN over an APN to access the internet, but not the other way around. Although private APNs do exist that allow corporations to set up a private network for their employees, it’s not similar. A VPN uses the internet as a medium to establish a virtual tunnel to let users connect and communicate with each other. A company with various branches can establish a VPN to connect them together so that they appear as one LAN. Remote workers use a VPN to access a company’s local network for resources. Without the internet, a VPN cannot work.

Similar to VPN, a private APN is a way for an organization to group its employees from other users on the same carrier. It requires a special configuration and a SIM card authorized for the private network. Custom configurations like this allow for some modifications, like having a static or dynamic IP address.

Conclusion – Why You Should Use a VPN

VPN’s key feature is its encryption and secures your internet traffic. It’s to ensure that a third party cannot peek inside the communication and see the contents of data packets. A VPN is extremely effective at bypassing surveillance and geo-restriction, which is something that an APN cannot do.

As privacy concerns grow large, leaving your internet activity exposed invites surveillance. After all, an APN is a gateway to the internet provided by a carrier. The carriers are mandated by the government to keep logs of user activity. The cellular network Verizon was ordered by a U.S intelligence court to turn over the logs of its users to the NSA on an ongoing basis.

Whether you are home or using an APN on the go to access the internet, a VPN protects your privacy.

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