Unless you exclusively play offline or just love single-player games, having a decent broadband provider is almost as important as having a powerful graphics card.
Choosing a good broadband package for gaming isn’t just about the speed of the connection either. It’s also about latency rates, monthly download limitations, contention rates and more.
Although there may be limitations on the options available in your particular area, it is important to go for the best broadband package that you can afford, especially if you want to make the most out of online multiplayer gaming.
Unsurprisingly, speed is an important consideration when it comes to choosing a broadband package to satisfy your love for gaming.
Whilst speed is not as crucial as many people assume it is when it comes to multiplayer gaming. It is important when it comes to downloading games, patches and user-generated content.
If you plan to buy and download games online using services like Steam or Origin, you’ll want the fastest connection available in your area.
Modern high-end video games such as Far Cry 4, The Witcher 3 and Dragon Age: Inquisition typically weigh in at around 25 GB or more.
Even the fastest connections available will still take at least half an hour to download such a game, but it can easily take an entire day or more with a standard broadband package.
While the fastest broadband connections currently available offer download speeds in excess of 100Mbps via a fiber-optic connection, they are only available in certain areas. Iif you cannot get a fiber-optic cable broadband package, make sure that you get the fastest standard DSL or cable package available to you.
Connection Reliability and Latency
Even more important than actual download speeds is having a reliable connection that maintains a consistently low latency (also known as ping).
The latency rate is the time, measured in milliseconds it takes for your computer to communicate with the remote server. In online multiplayer games, you’ll ideally want a latency rate of no more than 50ms.
Higher latency rates mean slower reaction times, giving opponents with better connections a huge advantage.
Latency rates shouldn’t be a major problem with any reputable broadband provider, but they can be a concern when it comes to shared connections or providers that have poor traffic management or high contention ratios.
Contention ratios refer to the number of people sharing the actual line in your area, and while service providers often don’t advertise them, it is wise to try to find out more.
For a reliable, fast and low-latency connection, you’ll ideally want a provider that has a contention ratio of 20:1 or better. In this example, the line to your house will be shared by up to 19 other people, whereas many budget providers offer a contention ratio of 50:1.
Given the amount of bandwidth that modern gaming uses, particularly when using platforms such as Steam to get your games and keep them up to date, having a flat rate connection is an absolute must for any gamer.
Many games also download updates and other content automatically, with some not even being playable until they’ve been updated.
However, while almost any medium to high-end broadband package will advertise unlimited downloads most are subject to a Fair Use Policy (FUP), and these can limit your connection speed if you download a lot of data.
Many providers don’t clearly advertise their so-called FUPs so it pays to thoroughly read the small print.
Fortunately, there are now many providers that do not enforce any traffic management, although their broadband packages do tend to come at a premium.
Broadband Hardware for Gamers
Most broadband packages come with all the hardware that you need to get connected, and while there are specialist routers aimed towards gamers, they rarely provide any discernible benefit in spite of the premium prices they might demand.
However, you’ll want to make sure you have a router that supports the current 802.11n wireless protocol and provides ample Ethernet ports. Nonetheless, any serious gamer will prefer to use a wired Internet connection anyway, due to improved reliability and fewer interference issues.