Most gamers would agree that their performance is partially tied to the speed of their Internet connection. After all, if you're constantly experiencing lag, it doesn't matter how well-trained your reaction time and muscle memory is, a laggy connection is simply too large a disadvantage to come out on top.
Since speed is so critical, it’s important to know how much bandwidth you actually require for online gaming.
In this guide, we’ll help you find the perfect speed for your gaming needs by explaining precisely what Internet speed is, how much speed is recommended for different types of games, and the different metrics you can use to make sure you’ve got the speed you need for your favorite gaming activities.
How Internet Speeds Affect Gaming
Mbps, short for megabits per second, is a data-rate metric used to measure information transfer speed. As the name implies, Mbps measures how many megabits can transfer from one source to another in a single second. Eight megabits equals one megabyte.
The higher the Mbps, the quicker users can download and upload data, which becomes important for bandwidth-heavy processes like streaming and online gaming.
Luckily, most games will only require somewhere between 3 and 10 Mbps to experience a smooth gaming experience, a rate which most modern Internet packages will meet with ease.
Bandwidth requirements increase with each additional person connected to a network, especially if they’re also gaming. For example, imagine a house with four roommates, three of which are avid gamers and a fourth who regularly streams movies and series in 1080p.
If they share a 10 Mbps connection, and all of them are online at the same time, it is unlikely that they will all experience a smooth, lagless connection.
Factors That Affect Total Internet Speed
The Mbps measurement is a good general benchmark to judge the quality of a connection, but it doesn’t tell us the full story. In reality, five different aspects should be considered when looking at an Internet connection and determining if it is sufficient for online gaming.
When most people talk about Internet speeds, they are typically referring to download speed. Download speed measures how quickly you can pull data from an external server to your computer. Max download speeds are significantly higher than max upload speeds since most activity you do online involves more downloading than sending of data.
Most game manufacturers recommend a minimum download speed between 3 and 6 Mbps, which most connections will satisfy.
Upload speed is the opposite of download speed and measures how fast you can transfer data from your computer or console to an external server.
While there’s no denying that sending information is an essential part of using the Internet, most people are not sending very large amounts of data, and as a result, Internet packages usually come with much slower upload speeds than download.
In terms of online gaming, a minimum upload speed of 1 Mbps is likely to be sufficient, assuming you're the only one connected to the network. However, the more people connected to the network, the faster the upload speed needed.
Latency and Ping
Ping, or latency as it's also called, is considered by many gamers to be more important than download speed and is used to measure a host's reachability on a network. In simpler terms, Ping measures how many milliseconds it takes your computer or console to send a message to a server and receive a response.
A high ping count limits the amount of data that can be transferred over a second, and a high Mbps download speed can't make up for this. Below is a general outline of what latency times are considered acceptable and which one's bad for online gaming.
Less than 20ms - Optimal: The preferred latency time for online gaming is anything under 20ms. At this rate, data has no issue transferring, and images and movements are clear and crisp.
20ms - 50ms - Good: Depending on location, most gamers can expect to have a ping somewhere in this range. Even towards the upper end of this range, users should experience a smooth gaming experience.
50ms - 100ms - Acceptable: At these levels, gamers might experience the occasional bout of lag, but overall, this range is still acceptable.
100ms - 300ms - Poor: Above 100ms, lag and periods of in-game unresponsiveness are common, and the overall gaming experience will be full of disruptions. It should be noted that, as we will see, some types of games run perfectly fine in the 250ms range, although some may not run at all.
Greater than 300: - Very Poor: A ping over 300 will cause even more lag and delays and is likely to provide an overall unplayable gaming experience.
Data caps are also something to be aware of when it comes to online gaming speeds.
A data cap is a limit on the amount of data you're able to transfer over the Internet in a given time frame. For example, some people may have an Internet package with a high connection speed of 50 Mbps but a monthly data cap of 150 GB. If they go over this limit, the ISP may cut off their access or throttle their connection.
At MCTV, we understand how important it is to have the fast and reliable service your family needs to stream, download and play. That’s why we offer Internet speeds up to 100 Mbps with no data caps. [NOTE – may want to highlight this paragraph with a different background color or something to draw extra attention to it]
For those who aren't aware, throttling is the practice of severely reducing a client's connection speed when they have gone over their monthly data cap. This practice is very prevalent with low-cost mobile carriers who promise unlimited data at a price much lower than their competition.
While they do provide their customers with unlimited access to the Internet, it comes with a catch. Should they go over their predetermined data cap, their Mbps will drop to a level that makes it difficult to do more than just basic web browsing and messaging.
Unfortunately, some ISPs play this game as well and will throttle a person's Internet connection should they go over their allotted monthly cap. If this happens, it can drop the bandwidth speed to a rate below the minimum requirements for online gaming, resulting in high amounts of lag, poor connectivity, and an overall terrible gaming experience.
The more people connected to a network, the worse the issue becomes. If a home's connection becomes throttled, and three or more people are attempting to perform bandwidth-heavy operations on it, it can result in an unusable network.
Let's say you have a strong Internet connection with no data cap, a high download speed, and low latency. Even in this case, the type of hardware you're using can significantly affect the quality of your connection.
These days, it’s quite common for serious gamers to use a wired connection instead of Wi-Fi. The reason for this is simple; ethernet cables are capable of transferring data up to ten times faster than a WiFi signal, which to avid gamers, can make a big difference.
How To Test Your Internet Speed
When experiencing issues with your connection, the first thing to do is run a speed test. Once this is done, you will be able to see if the problem lies with your download or ping speed or if it's something else.
Although many speed testing services exist, speedcheck.org is one of the most popular amongst gamers.
How Much Speed Do You Need for Different Game Types?
The term gaming is broad and encompasses many different types of games, not all of which have the same bandwidth requirements. While not exhaustive, the list below includes the most popular types of games people play online and their corresponding connection requirements for optimal performance.
First Person Shooters (FPS)
First person shooters are by far the most resource-consuming type of game, and as a result, have the highest requirements. For a smooth and lag-free experience, most manufacturers recommend:
Download Speed: 30Mbps or greater
Upload Speed: 1Mbps or greater
Ping Rate: 20ms or less
Real-time Strategy Games
Real time strategy games use much less bandwidth than FPSs, and as a result, their minimum requirements are much lower.
Download Speed: 3Mbps
Upload Speed: 1Mbps
Ping Rate: 120ms or less
Role-playing Games (RPG)
Role playing games typically have the lowest bandwidth requirements of all the major game types. Because of this, enjoying a smooth, fluid experience can be achieved even by those with low Mbps connections.
Download Speed: 2Mbps
Upload Speed: 0.5Mbps
Ping Rate: 150ms or less
Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) Games
MMOs have similar requirements to RPGs, and most Internet connections can handle them without issue. This being said, MMOs transfer a large amount of data during a playing session, and avid players will want to make sure they don't have a data cap on their Internet package.
Download Speed: 3.5Mbps
Upload Speed: 0.5MBPS
Ping Rate: 150ms or less
As we have seen, network speed and latency rate play a significant role in your ability to enjoy a smooth, uninterrupted, online gaming experience. If you're an avid gamer experiencing a high amount of lag or slow loading times, it may be time to take measures to increase your Internet speed or upgrade your Internet package altogether.
If you’re looking for consistent speeds, even at peak times, we offer Home High-Speed Internet to give you the best gaming experience. No data caps, no complicated contracts - just fast, reliable Internet.