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How durable is your smartphone connection?

Urban Airship examines the steadfastness of mobile data connections today as devices and applications constantly vie for the network's attention. It's a metric that could become even more important as networks evolve and devices proliferate.

In the wireless industry, we spend a lot of time focusing on metrics like downlink and uplink speed, coverage, dropped calls and data connection success and failure. But one metric that has gained little to no attention to connection durability: the ability for a device to remain persistently connected to the network without dropping out of coverage. That lack of attention is puzzling considering that since the advent of 3G, mobile networks have been billed as always-on connections—free flowing conduits to the Internet that keep us connected at any time and any location.

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Notification and messaging provider Urban Airship decided to tackle the issue of connection durability, examining the server log data from a sample of the millions of devices using its messaging platform. It recently published its conclusions in a blog post, and the results are definitely interesting.

Urban Airship found that the more than half of all global tablets and smartphones typically drop and re-establish their network connections less than 10 times a day. The remaining 45% of devices, however, showed a much bigger variation in reconnect rates, in a few cases rising up to 100 reconnects a day. (U.S. operators are slightly higher -- see the complete carrier chart, or read on for their rankings).

Obviously some devices are having trouble maintaining their network connections, but the fact that most devices are well under the 10 reconnection bar is surprising. Most of can probably point to instance where our phones have lost their connections and been forced to reconnect in the last few hours—entering an elevator or subway, driving through a tunnel or into an underground parking garage. Those are just the reconnection events we’re aware of. More often than not our phones go offline and back online without a whisper, and we’re none the wiser.

Then there are the intentional reconnects. Every time a smartphone enters its home network, it shuts down its wide-area network connection in favor of Wi-Fi. As WiMAX and LTE devices move out of coverage they shut down their 4G radios and reconnect through 3G or 2G technologies. Certain applications and power management aggressively manage their data connections, shutting down their links when not in use. Every CDMA phone turns off its data modem when making or accepting a phone call.

More: How Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile Fared

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© 2014 Penton Media Inc.

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