What Speed Internet Do I Really Need for Online Gaming?

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Looking to claim the top spot in FortNite? Trying for the level of Grandmaster in Overwatch? No matter what your online gaming goals are, you’re going to need fast internet speeds to reach them. Even if you’re one of the greatest players of all time, you’ll be shut down quickly every game if your internet is slow.

Not sure what speeds are best for online games? Here’s a complete rundown of what you need to know:

Consider These Three Factors:

Your online gaming experience is affected by three different aspects of your internet connection:

  • Upload Speed
  • Download Speed
  • Ping Rate

Upload Speed

For the most part, upload speed isn’t a huge concern for online gamers. Upload speed is useful if you frequently store lots of data online, such as in a cloud storage service.

You’ll also want to consider upload speed if you frequently post video. This can be an issue if you stream video games on a service like Twitch. However, for non-streaming gamers, upload speed is typically the least important factor of the three listed.

Download Speed

Download speed is the rate data can be downloaded from the internet to your computer or gaming console. The maximum rate you can download data is your bandwidth, which is measured in Megabits per second (Mbps). The more bandwidth you have, the quicker you can download large files.

Bandwidth is shared by all devices on your connection, which is usually all the devices in your home. If you have multiple players all using the internet, performance for everybody can suffer. But usually most home internet can handle a few standard activities simultaneously without problem.

Generally, video and games use the most bandwidth. Netflix recommends a 5 Mbps for high-def streaming. Most online games need between 1 and 5Mbps. If someone in the house is watching a movie while another is playing a game, performance will likely be just fine for both.

Bandwidth typically only becomes a gaming-related issue when you want to download a large game to your hard drive, such as with a digital purchase. The more bandwidth available, the quicker the download. You’ll often get the fastest speeds if you download games at night, when network demand is low.

Ping Rate

Also called latency, ping rate is the main reason for problems with online gaming. High latency causes a variety of gaming problems such as slow and stuttering gameplay. If you’ve ever played a game where another player seems to be skipping around the map – magically disappearing and reappearing – that’s a problem with the ping rate.

Latency is the amount of time data takes to go and return from an online location. For example, pretend you’re playing FortNite. You round a corner and run right into an enemy. You pull the trigger on your controller and he does the same.

By pressing a button on the controller, you’re telling the game you want to attack. This “attack signal” is sent from your console to the game’s online server. Latency is the time the signal takes to reach the server. The lower the latency, the quicker the signal will travel.

For the sake of argument, let’s say you and your opponent both fired a shot at exactly the same time. If you both had the same ping rate, those shots would then hit also at the exact same time.

But otherwise the player with the lowest latency would gain a competitive advantage. His shot would hit first. Players with a high ping rate can be at a huge disadvantage, as their opponents can be impossible to kill.

Causes and Solutions of High Latency

There’s good news and bad news if you’re plagued by a high ping rate while playing an online game. The game news is high latency is most likely unrelated to anything you’re specifically doing at the moment. The bad news is identifying a more specific cause of latency can be difficult to determine. Common potential causes include:

  • Physical distance between servers
  • Amount of network traffic
  • Individual internet connection issues

Generally, your best bet is to reset your modem and gaming console. If the latency issues continue for more than a few hours, call your ISP and see if you can get more information. Sometimes when high ping occurs for players in an online game the only cure is allowing time to pass.

What Type of Internet Connection is Best for Online Gaming?

The four most common types of broadband internet are DSL, cable, satellite and fiber optic lines. Here’s a look at each:

DSL (digital subscriber line) is affordable but not particularly fast. While it’ll generally work okay for online gaming, it’s not the best. But it’s not the worst, either. Unless you have no other option, avoid satellite, which is often slow, unreliable and often expensive.

The absolute fastest option is fiber optic lines, although they’re the least widely available type of connection in the country. But if you’re lucky enough to live in a state with Verizon FiOS or Google Fiber, definitely check out your fiber options.

Most gamers generally choose cable internet, as it’s widely available, affordable and fast enough for online multiplayer games. Will you have the absolute fastest connection? Probably not, but problems will also likely be limited.

Check Specific System Requirements

Each gaming console will have specific recommendations. You can usually find these numbers through the console’s respective online service (such as Xbox Live or PSN). However, generally, you should be fine with an upload speed of 1 Mbps, a download speed of 3 Mbps and a ping rate under 150 ms.

Be sure and connect your console to the internet with a wired connection. Wireless connections typically are slower and less reliable.

Final Thoughts

Fortunately, you don’t need blazing fast internet speeds to reign supreme in online gaming. Most gamers will be just fine with standard cable internet speeds (of course, fiber is even better when available). Pay attention to the download and upload speeds, while also keeping an eye on your ping rate, and you’ll be all set to win!

Blair Campbell

Founder of GetInternet. Blair studied computer science at the California Institute of Technology Computing and Mathematical Sciences program, but he enjoys writing on the side. He grew up in southern California and now lives in Denver, Colorado.