Best Internet Providers for Gaming 2023
Gaming has quickly become one of the most popular activities in the world, with millions of people connecting with their friends digitally via multiplayer games. Many players even stream these games through social media platforms such as Twitch. However, every gamer who has ever experienced lag or has had to wait hours for a new game to download knows that you need a fast internet connection to make online gaming fun. Whether you’re a dedicated online gamer with a robust PC build, or a casual RPG fan, we gathered our top internet service providers (ISPs) to help you decide the best option for your gaming needs based on speed, value, availability, reliability, and reputation.
What Gamers Need in an Internet Plan
While casual internet users tend to look for the basics, gamers typically have more intense requirements for internet plans. For example, gamers who enjoy single-player games will want to make sure their internet plan can handle downloading the game. Multiplayer gamers, on the other hand, are usually more focused on aspects like latency and speed to ensure they get the best hit registry while staying connected to teammates via voice chat. No matter what type of gamer you are, here are the main things you need to look for in an internet plan:
1. Fast Download Speeds (At Least 50 Mbps)
Generally speaking, there are two central installation steps to set up a game: installing the game itself and installing its updates. While it’s not required to have gigabit-speed internet for video games, having the fastest internet speeds possible will allow you to download and play games faster. On the other hand, running the games themselves online usually requires minimal download speeds (between 5-15 Mbps). We recommend a minimum of 50 Mbps to ensure you can download games quickly and maintain your connection — but the faster, the better.
2. Quick Upload Speeds (At Least 35 Mbps)
Some gamers like to upload their game footage on YouTube or stream live on platforms like Twitch. If this scenario sounds like you, consider upload speeds when looking for the ideal internet provider. Quick upload speeds ensure you can get your video content up quickly, and that your video on demand (VOD) will run smoothly without latency issues. Similar to download speeds, the minimum requirement is low (about 1-2 Mbps). However, we recommend upload speeds of at least 35 Mbps for gamers who want to livestream and post gameplay online.
3. Low Latency (Lower Than 30 ms)
Latency, also known as ping, is the term that describes how fast you receive a response from your internet connection after you send a request. In the gaming world, it describes the delay between your actions in the game and what appears on screen. Ideally, gamers who want smooth gameplay will want the lowest latency possible. Typically, a latency lower than 100 milliseconds (ms) will keep your game running, but we recommend looking for connections that offer latency lower than 30 ms to prevent any multiplayer lag.
4. Large Data Caps or Unlimited Data (At Least 1 TB)
Most video games are relatively small, usually under 1-2 GB. Some game developers release updates or downloadable content (DLC) to accompany these games, upping the total game size to a manageable 3-5 GB. That said, some online games can reach between 30-100 GB. For instance, “Minecraft” only takes about a gigabyte of space, while “Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2” requires a whopping 125 GB of available space. Downloading games alone can eat up data rapidly, so choosing an internet plan with a larger data cap (1 TB or more) is essential. And, if you can find it, unlimited data is the best option.
5. Wired Internet Connection (Fiber or Cable)
Sure, you could play your games via Wi-Fi and experience decent internet speeds. However, we recommend getting a wired internet connection like fiber or cable for the best experience. Not only do these connection types offer low latency, but they’re quick for both downloading and uploading. If possible, we suggest connecting directly to your router or modem via Ethernet for the best possible experience.
Our Top Internet Provider Picks for Gamers
With fast internet speeds, unlimited data caps, and excellent customer service, AT&T is our top choice for gamers who want the best internet experience. AT&T offers a variety of internet types, from fiber to 5G home internet. Among many people, including gamers, AT&T is known primarily for its blazing-fast fiber internet connection, which offers speeds up to 5 Gbps. When combining these quick speeds with AT&T’s affordable starting price of just $35 per month, gamers will find AT&T Fiber delivers a crisp and low-latency gaming experience.
In addition to offering incredible internet speeds, every AT&T internet plan comes with unlimited data. This offering is a huge perk for the dedicated gamer in your household, as plans with no data caps allow them to download games and stream gameplay to their heart’s content. If they’re looking to post videos online, they’ll also be able to upload as much video content as they like without waiting for hours on end.
Even with top internet, a solid internet provider should have good customer service, especially if there are any outages or issues with lag. AT&T features renowned customer support and provides multiple avenues of contact, including calling by phone or using live chat. AT&T even offers forums where gamers can ask people about fiber internet and other general inquiries.
Why We Like AT&T Fiber for Gaming
- Ultrafast fiber internet speeds for no-lag gaming
- Unlimited data for endless game downloads
- Award-winning customer service
Xfinity’s plentiful data caps, fast cable internet, and affordable pricing are just a few reasons why it’s one of our top ISPs for gamers. Although Xfinity’s internet plans don’t offer unlimited data like other providers, its data cap is generous, providing 1.2 TB of data with each of its internet plans. With online game downloads averaging 1-5 GB and the download speeds eating up a negligible amount of data, Xfinity’s data cap should be enough for most gamers to download and enjoy their favorites without worrying about data overage fees.
While Xfinity does have some fiber internet offerings, it primarily deals in cable technology. Even though cable isn’t as fast, it still provides gigabit speeds and low latency, which is enough for most online gaming activities. In fact, Xfinity’s cable internet network can achieve speeds up to 1 Gbps.
Another upside to Xfinity’s cable internet is the price. Fiber internet can be costly, especially if you’re purchasing gigabit internet. With cable internet, gamers can still get fast internet speeds at a fraction of the cost of most fiber internet plans. It won’t be as fast, but it’s an excellent budget-friendly option that balances speed and price. Xfinity cable internet plans start at just $35 per month.
Why We Like Xfinity for Gaming
- Generous data cap for all cable internet plans
- Affordable pricing and value for speed
- Quick cable internet speeds
For a budget-friendly internet option with unlimited data and no contracts, Spectrum has you covered. Compared to AT&T and Xfinity, Spectrum offers some of the cheapest internet plans on the market when you consider its full plan selection. Wired internet options like fiber are usually more expensive, but cable internet provides an option that’s right in the middle. Spectrum’s cable internet is affordable, priced at just $49.99 per month.
Similar to other internet providers, Spectrum offers unlimited data with its internet plans. If you have multiple online gamers or streamers in your household, Spectrum’s unlimited data ensures you won’t go over a set limit. Livestreaming and downloading games can eat up bandwidth quickly, so unlimited data can help you alleviate some of the stress associated with data overage fees or having to watch how much data you use per month.
One of Spectrum’s best perks is that it doesn’t require contracts for any of its plans. Rather than committing to a contract that could last a year or two, Spectrum users can pay for their internet monthly without worrying about early-termination fees (ETFs). Gamers can also take advantage of this benefit by switching between different plans to accommodate their internet needs.
Why We Like Spectrum for Gaming
- Unlimited data for download and streaming
- Budget-friendly cable internet plans
- No contracts required
Other Internet Providers for Gaming
The internet providers we’ve listed below are great alternatives if the providers listed above aren’t available to you. Although each provider has its drawbacks, there are still some good perks associated with each provider.
- Verizon Fios: Verizon’s fiber internet service, Verizon Fios, is an outstanding option for gamers that offers symmetrical speeds and unlimited data. If you’re outside of the coverage area of other fiber internet providers, such as AT&T, you’ll want to sign up for Verizon Fios.
- Optimum: Outside of Xfinity and Spectrum, Optimum is an excellent alternative for cable internet. Optimum provides a cable internet connection with a generous data cap of 1.2 TB for all of its internet plans, and can achieve gigabit speeds.
- Cox: Another well-known cable internet entity is Cox. With a large coverage area, generous data caps, and quick speeds, Cox delivers high-quality internet to many subscribers across the U.S.
Tips for Picking the Perfect Internet Provider for Gaming
Picking the internet provider with the fastest internet speeds can be tempting, but there’s more to a good gaming internet plan than just speed. Here are some additional tips for choosing an internet provider for gaming:
- Always choose a fiber internet provider (if possible). Fiber internet provides symmetrical download and upload speeds, making gaming and streaming a breeze. It also offers fast internet speeds with little to no latency compared to other connection types.
- Check the data caps on your internet plan. Some internet providers offer unlimited data with their plans, while others provide a data cap. Check each plan carefully to see which one applies, and then compare that with how often your household plays games and the sizes of games they usually download.
- Invest in a high-quality router. A good router can make the difference between a good gaming session and a lagging solo-player mission. If you’re gaming on fiber or cable internet, a quality router will also provide smooth gameplay when connected directly via Ethernet cable.
Frequently Asked Questions About Internet Providers for Gaming
Which internet provider offers the best internet plan for gaming?
We recommend AT&T Fiber as the best overall internet provider for gamers. It offers some of the fastest internet speeds on the market and provides outstanding customer service. If AT&T Fiber is unavailable in your area, we recommend looking into Xfinity or Spectrum.
What internet speeds do you need for gaming?
Fortunately, you don’t need gigabit internet to enjoy your favorite games. The minimum internet speed requirements for gaming are low (5-10 Mbps). However, gamers who use voice chat or frequently play multiplayer games will want higher internet speeds to prevent lag spikes or random disconnects.
Why is fiber internet the best option for gaming?
Fiber internet offers the fastest download and upload speeds on the market, making it ideal for gaming or cloud-based streaming. Generally speaking, wired internet options are the best for gaming because their connections allow users to play games at the highest quality without compromising internet speeds. In addition, fiber internet speeds are symmetrical, meaning that the download speeds are just as fast as upload speeds.
What’s a good ping for online gaming?
Gamers can enjoy the best experience with pings below 50 ms. Players with latencies above 100 ms will experience frequent lag spikes and possible disconnects. This fact is one reason we don’t recommend satellite internet connections for multiplayer gaming.