The type of broadband you have at home should reflect what you plan to use it for, and playing games online is one of the most bandwidth-intensive online activities. The best broadband for gaming is going to be significantly different from the best broadband for simple browsing or streaming.
Many of the major broadband providers know that gamers are in a class of their own and will place high demands on their broadband connections. And while there are a few comprehensive broadband packages on the market that are ideal for gamers, there are a few things to think about first when you compare broadband deals.
What broadband speed do I need for gaming?
The good news is you can game online with almost any broadband speed. The bad news is, if your broadband speed is slow, it will be a terrible gaming experience and you’ll probably get taken out pretty quickly.
As a minimum for basic games, you should have at least 3Mbps of broadband speed, but the more the merrier. Also, bear in mind that if others in your home are using the internet, your bandwidth will be even more limited.
Another important factor in having the best broadband for gaming is having a reliable connection. A reliable connection that won’t drop out is even more important than broadband speed when gaming. Certain types of broadband are better at this than others — fibre broadband, for example, is a lot more reliable than ADSL, due to the more modern infrastructure it uses.
Luckily, most major providers are incredibly reliable, but if you’re unsure which one to choose it’s a good idea to check out Ofcom’s complaints data reports, which give you a snapshot of how reliable broadband providers are. You can see the latest report, as well as more information on broadband providers’ reliability in our broadband customer service guide.
So as a general rule, if you’re interested in online gaming, you’ll need some kind of fibre broadband connection. Gaming with a cheap ADSL connection will lead to excruciatingly slow load times, terrible lag and a latency that will make gameplay less than optimal. (More on those later).
What broadband speed do I need for downloading games?
Video game files are enormous, and will continue to get larger as graphics and features get more and more complex. Video games with high-res graphics or those that play in 4K will place the biggest demands on your home broadband, and an ADSL connection with 3Mbps will not be able to cope.
To put things in perspective, Final Fantasy XV is roughly 100 GB and Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare is almost 175 GB. This means Call of Duty: Modern Warfare would take about 132.7 hours to download on a 3Mbps connection. That’s five and a half days waiting for the game you purchased to download before you can start playing, and that’s if there are no interruptions and you don’t use your broadband for anything else that week.
Did you know downloading times differ wildly from country to country? Check out our video game download times guide to see how the UK compares to its neighbours.
What does Mbps mean?
Mbps stands for ‘Megabits per second’ and is a simple way to compare average broadband speeds from different providers and different broadband packages. For example, a standard ADSL connection typically has average speeds of around 10Mpbs.
It’s a basic measurement of how much information you can access via your broadband connection, the higher the number, the more megabits of data you can download in a second.
Take a look at our download speed calculator to see how long it takes for different internet speeds to save different file sizes.
How much internet speed do I need for online gaming?
So, technically, for online games, you’ll need a broadband connection with a minimum of 3Mbps. This will be just about enough but with little bandwidth to spare, especially if you live with other people. Online gaming will chew up most of your bandwidth, making streaming or video calls pretty much impossible for anyone else in your home.
Download speed isn’t the only factor that affects your online gaming experience as you’ll need a decent upload speed too. Typically, upload speeds are significantly slower than download speeds on all but full fibre connections.
How much data does online gaming use?
While online gaming does, of course, use up data, normal gameplay takes up a surprisingly small amount. Most video game titles use somewhere between 40MB to 300MB per hour which, even at its most extreme, is still less than a third of standard definition Netflix streaming.
If you’re using game streaming services like Google Stadia and Microsoft xCloud, which don’t rely on a console or computer to run games, you’re going to need a little more bandwidth for your gaming.
Since all the processing happens on remote servers, which is then streamed back to your TV or computer, cloud gaming places higher demands on your broadband and needs significantly faster upload and download speeds to function smoothly.
What speed do I need for a game streaming service?
Google Stadia states that you need a minimum 10Mbps broadband connection for 720p gaming, and at least 35Mbps if you want to play in 4K.
Most broadband deals nowadays include unlimited downloads, but just be aware that Google Stadia can use 4.5GB of data an hour and up to 15.75GB an hour when playing in 4K.
Not sure what your current broadband speed is? Try our broadband speed test to see what you’re currently getting, and if you’re able to get better.
How to get the best gaming internet
In order to get the best gaming internet, you’ll need to make sure that you have the right broadband connection and that you’re making the best use of it.
1. Choose a fibre broadband package
A superfast fibre broadband deal should be plenty for steady online gaming, just be sure to check the average upload speed is at least 9Mbps.
2. Make sure you have a good ping for gaming
One of the biggest factors to impact your gaming experience is lag and latency which are caused by having a slow ping rate.
Your ping rate is the reaction time of your internet connection and the speed at which you get a response after you’ve sent out a request. This is usually measured in milliseconds (ms). For example, if you have a ping rate of 100ms, your device takes 100ms to respond to a request by another device.
Lag will often make it seem like your online opponent is standing still, while in fact, they’re moving in to attack you. Latency is the time it takes for the input from your controls to register in the game. The longer the time between pressing punch/jump/fire and that moving taking place on the screen, the lower your sensitivity and the worse your gaming experience will be.
What is a good ping speed?
For gaming, you’ll need a ping rate of at least 150ms or less. The lower the ping rate the better, and the lowest ping rate available is about 2ms, which will make your gaming feel incredibly smooth.
How do I lower my ping?
In addition to upgrading to a faster, more reliable broadband connection, you can reduce your ping rate by reducing the number of devices connected to your home network. If you’ve got laptops, tablets, phones, smartwatches, smart fridges, and a hundred more devices all feeding off the same broadband connection, your console’s reaction time will ultimately be slower.
If you’re gaming on a PC or Mac, a quick fix is to close as many tabs and programs as possible, since there will be fewer requests for data coming from apps and programs running in the background.
3. Wireless vs wired connection
Finally, you could switch to a wired Ethernet connection, which is a lot more reliable than connecting wirelessly via Wi-Fi, and is the only way to achieve the fastest broadband speeds currently available in the UK.
Even wireless internet means few cables and more flexibility where you can play, if you are able to connect via Ethernet cable you could dramatically improve your gaming experience.
For one thing, the direct connection can help to lower your ping rate, and as Wi-Fi signals can be affected by interference, they can increase your latency, packet loss and jitter. Interference can come from any number of household devices, so using a wired connection will make gameplay faster and smoother.
Ready to make a decision on the right broadband for your gaming needs? Compare broadband deals with Uswitch to find the right package for you.