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What internet speed do I need for gaming?

What internet speed do I need for gaming?

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Last updated: 13 January 2022

Need better internet for your gaming hobby? You’ve come to the right place. 

Read this guide to see which kind of broadband speeds you should be upgrading to, then compare deals from trusted providers in your area. 

Why is internet speed important for gamers?

Avid online gamers know that when it comes to making the leader board, your broadband connection can matter as much as your trigger finger and problem-solving skills.

Slow internet can hamper your moves, high latency can give you out of date information on your opponents’ moves, and jitter on the line can make shots go astray. Sluggish broadband can also mean games and patches take ages to download.

In general, the higher your broadband speed (both download and upload), the smoother and all-round better experience you’ll have playing online games.

What’s the minimum speed I need for gaming?

As a rule of thumb, you need a minimum connection of 3Mbps downstream and 1Mbps upstream to game online. 

Nintendo recommends these speeds for playing games on its Switch system, while Xbox One says you need 3Mbps downstream and 0.5Mbps upload. You should have speeds of at least 2Mbps (thats both download and upload) to use a PlayStation 4.

Let’s take a closer look at the most popular consoles and the minimum speeds that their manufacturers claim you’ll need:

Platform Minimum Download Speed Minimum Upload Speed
PlayStation 5/PlayStation 4 2Mbps 2Mbps
Xbox Series X/Xbox One 3Mbps 0.5Mbps
Nintendo Switch 3Mbps 1Mbps
PC 6Mbps 1Mbps

Most ADSL broadband connections, with download speeds of 10-11Mbps and upload speeds of around 1.5Mbps, will deliver these minimums. However, if any other devices are using your internet connection, the bandwidth available to your gaming console will fall.

So, if your housemate is watching Netflix in the other room, or youre downloading a Blu-ray film on your laptop, you might not have enough bandwidth to fire up Call of Duty.

Additionally, the copper telephone wires ADSL uses to deliver internet suffer from attenuation, meaning speed deteriorates over distance. If you live far from your local telephone exchange, the speeds you receive on ADSL could fall well below the minimum.

What broadband speed is best for gaming?

Just because you can game on an ADSL connection, it doesnt mean you want to. You might find the game lags, games and patches take hours to download, and your opponents always seem a move ahead. 

Serious gamers, particularly those playing first-person shooter and twitch-play games, will want broadband with download speeds of between 50Mbps and 100Mbps, delivered by fibre optic or cable broadband.

What type of broadband should I get for gaming?

Weve established that serious online gamers want a connection with download speeds of 50-100Mbps and healthy upload speeds too.

Ideally, youd sign up for the connection with the fastest speeds on the market - the 1Gbps (1,000Mbps) symmetrical speeds delivered by full fibre. Full fibre is hands-down the best broadband for gaming.

It is also great for streaming video over the internet, which is useful as you can now watch tv on games consoles (modern ones at least!).

However, as youll find when you compare broadband deals for your address, full-fibre connections are only available to just under a fifth of UK premises and can be prohibitively expensive for some consumers. Slower fibre to the cabinet (FTTC) and cable connections can do the job for most gamers.

  • Fibre Optic (FTTC): delivers average download speeds of up to 67Mbps and upload speeds of up to 10-20Mbps, depending on the package. Available to 98.8% of UK premises. Lower latency, jitter and packet loss than ADSL.
  • Cable: available from Virgin Media to 52.8% of UK households, delivering download speeds of up to 1,104Mbps or 636Mbps, depending on the area. Upload speeds top out at 52Mbps. Lower latency, jitter and packet loss than ADSL.
  • Full Fibre (FTTP): delivers symmetrical download and upload speeds of 1Gbps. Available to just under 20% of UK homes. Best broadband connection for low latency, jitter and packet loss.

Do I need a new router?

It isn't just the type of connection you have that is important when it comes to online gaming. There are various in-house factors that can affect the speed you can get from your connection, none less than your router. 

Generally, gaming over WiFi is often frowned upon as it usually isn't as reliable as using an ethernet cable, but this really depends on the router you use. While the router provided to you by your ISP will do the basics, you may find it lacking compared to dedicated gaming router. 

So, for the best gaming experience, it may be wise to invest in a new router. To make sure you aren't let down by a lag spike due to insufficient hardware, take a look at the best gaming routers in 2021 to stay ahead of the competition.

What else do gamers need to consider when looking for broadband?

The speed of your internet connection isnt the only spec that matters for gaming. You should also consider your broadbands latency (ping), jitter and packet loss. Let’s take a look at what these terms mean:

  • Latency: The speed of which your games console sends and receives data to and from the server. Latency is measured in milliseconds, known as the ‘ping rate’. The lower your ping rate, and thus your latency, the more responsive your games should feel.
  • Jitter: The variation of latency. When devices send packets of data to servers and back, there is sometimes a delay in the time it typically takes for data to be transferred. Jitter is often caused by network congestion.
  • Packet loss: When a packet of data is sent across a network but is somehow ‘lost’ along the journey and doesn’t end up at its intended destination, i.e. your device or the server. Packet loss is caused by a number of issues, including network congestion and hardware/software bugs.  

While all these factors can affect your overall gaming experience, none of them are quite as vital as your internet speed. Unless your connection is delivering enough megabits per second (Mbps), you’ll struggle to even get out of the starting gate!

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Fergus Cole

Author: Fergus Cole

Fergus is a journalist specialising in the personal finance, energy and broadband sectors. He also has a passion for travel and adventure so tries to make the most of this in any spare time he gets.