Let’s set the stage here.
You’re playing Call of Duty and are in the middle of a battle against your friends. Time is running out, and you need a couple more kills to take the lead. You spot an enemy hiding behind a building, so you pull out your sniper rifle, take aim and right before you pull the trigger…
Your internet cuts out.
By the time your internet connects the round is over, and come to find out you were killed twice more — once when you were about to take the shot, and once more when you came back to life.
I can’t think of anything worse than this, other than maybe your internet interfering with how well your team does, or being kicked off altogether because you’re internet isn’t cut out for gaming.
The point is, is that if you’re going to game online, you can’t be dealing with crap internet. Not unless you like dying and being ridiculed by your friends.
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How Do Gamers Use the Internet?
- Play games. All kinds of games, including first person shooters (FPS), MMO, role playing games (RPGs), driving and fighting games. Systems used will include Xbox (360), PS2/3, Wii and PC.
- Chat, argue or make fun of their friends via headset.
- Buy and download new games.
What’s important to keep in mind here, is that to some extent, the games that you choose to (download and) play will affect the type of internet connection, speed and ping rate you can get away with. Faster paced games such as Call of Duty or Fallout will require faster speeds and ping rates for you to keep up compared to a puzzle or strategy type game.
Internet Recommendations for Gamers
- Any connection that is NOT dialup.
- A low ping rate / latency — 100 m/s or less.
- Speeds of 1 Mbps or higher.
- Data plans of 1 GB
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I cover each of these points in more detail below.
What Internet Connections Should You Use for Online Gaming?
The internet connections that will work for online gaming include fiber optics, cable or DSL. Mobile and wireless connections are fine, too, although they may present their own problems. Namely dealing with weather and other conditions (mobile) and signal strength (wireless). All of these connections will meet our other recommendations.
I suggest avoiding dialup, though, simply because it’s hardly fast enough, not to mention that the ping rate is higher than what is ideal for gaming online. Satellite internet should be avoided, too, because the ping rate (latency) is too slow — usually in the range of 800-1200 m/s, which is 8-12x what our recommendation is.
Low Ping Rates are Important for Online Gaming
The most important internet variable for online gaming is your ping rate (also referred to as latency). This is how fast information is sent from your computer to the game servers and back again. The lower the number, the better.
A good ping rate to aim for would be less than 30 m/s. However, anything under 100 m/s should work. Again, this will depend a little on the game you’re playing.
It’s important to realize that many game servers have thresholds for ping rates. If your ping rate is too high, you might be automatically kicked out from the game. Thresholds can be as low as 130 m/s.
The problem with ping rates is that you don’t usually know what it is until you’ve already had the internet service installed and tested. So one option is to have the internet installed and test it before the return term is up, between 15 and 30 days. Another option is to ask people in your area, either knocking on a few doors or checking around local forums and asking what ping rates others are experiencing. The ping rates will be different from one ISP to the next, due to variables out of your control, so if one isn’t fast enough you can always try another.
What Internet Speeds Do You Need for Online Gaming?
Internet speeds of 1Mbps is more than sufficient for gaming, as ping rates/latency is more important. It’s enough bandwidth for gaming.
That said, you may want more if you’re on cable internet or use wireless and have several users online at the same time as you’re trying to play. But you don’t need much more, unless you use the internet for other things (streaming music, videos, movies, work, etc). Most ISPs’ smallest plans usually have a higher max than 1 Mbps, anyway.
Data Plans of 1 GB or Higher is Good for Mobile (3G) Gaming
If you want to game on the go, you’ll need to get a mobile internet plan. Gamers share a concern that they’ll go over their data usage plans and rack up huge bills if they play games online.
That’s not quite the case.
For one thing, the only real concern to have is if you download a ton of games, especially large files. Then you might soak up your data allowance (and quickly).
However, if you’re just playing then a 1 GB plan should be more than enough. The average data usage is about 30 to 50 Mbps per hour of online gaming. So if you figure in the middle (40 Mbps) for 6 hours of play per day, 31 days per month, you come out to .9375 GB. Chances are that you won’t even come close to 6 hours per day, as you probably have school, work or other things to do throughout the day.
With that in mind, you might want to go with a data plan of 2 GB, or if you’re a student closer to 8 or 10 GB, if you intend to game and do other things like browse the internet, email, school assignments or work.