Building Android APN / Carrier Config

As anyone who’s setup a private LTE network can generally attest, APNs can be a real headache.

SIM/USIM cards, don’t store any APN details. In this past you may remember having to plug all these settings into your new phone when you upgraded so you could get online again.

Today when you insert a USIM belonging to a commercial operator, you generally don’t need to put APN settings in, this is because Android OS has its own index of APNs. When the USIM is inserted into the baseband module, the handset’s OS looks at the MCC & MNC in the IMSI and gets the APN settings automatically from Android’s database of APN details.

There is an option for the network to send the connectivity details to the UE in a special type of SMS, but we won’t go into that.

All this info is stored on the Android OS in apns-full-conf.xml which for non-rooted (stock) devices is not editable.

Instead the devices get updates through the OS updates which pull the latest copy of this file from Google’s Android Open Source Git repo, you can view the current master file here.

This file can override the user’s APN configuration, which can lead to some really confusing times as your EPC rejects the connection due to an unrecognized APN which is not what you have configured on the UE’s operating system, but it instead uses APN details from it’s database.

The only way around this is to change the apns-full-conf.xml file, either by modifying it per handset or submitting a push request to Android Open Source with your updated settings.

(I’ve only tried the former with rooted devices)

The XML file itself is fairly self explanatory, taking the MCC and MNC and the APN details for your network:

<apn carrier="CarrierXYZ"

Once you’ve added yours to the file, inserting the USIM, rebooting the handset or restarting the carrier app is all that’s required for it to be re-read and auto provision APN settings from the XML file.

Further reading

APN and CarrierConfig | Android Open Source Project

Carrier Configuration | Android Open Source Project

UICC Carrier Privileges | Android Open Source Project

/etc/apns-full-conf.xml – Master Branch

One thought on “Building Android APN / Carrier Config

  1. Hi Nick,

    I want to test this in a rooted Pixel device, however I cannot find where is located (by adb shell), do you know where it is? I want to submit the patch in the AOSP.


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