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Best Internet for Gaming in 2020

You and your squad are about to close out your eighth “Victory Royale” in Fortnite of the night, as your gaming-optimized PC is just one of the reasons you’ve been coming out ahead. Suddenly, you notice your ping is over 1,000 and you can’t even move.

Before you know it, you’ve been eliminated because of your internet and your opponent is emoting as you toss your keyboard across the room. If this scenario hits a little too close to home, read on to understand the best internet service for gamers.

Not all internet connections are created equal, and when it comes to gaming, some internet connections are better than others. For serious gamers, other important factors to consider include internet set up, how ping and latency affect real-time communication and data cap limitations. It’s not rocket science but it isn’t exactly straightforward, which is why we breakdown all the information in the post below to help you find the best internet for gaming in 2020.

Understanding Your Internet Needs for Online Gaming

Internet Recommendations for Online Gamers

  • Download and upload speeds of at least 25 Mbps
  • Low ping rate that ranges from 10-30 ms
  • Low latency of under 100 ms
  • A minimum data cap of 50-100 GB to avoid overage fees

Things to Avoid for Online Gamers:

  • A low-quality router
  • Satellite internet (and any connection that is not dialup)

What are ping and latency?

Low ping and latency rates are important for gaming online. Ping is the time it takes for a signal to go from your computer to a server which is measured in milliseconds (ms). Latency is the time it takes for a roundtrip from the computer to the server and back.

Generally, low ping (ranging from 10-30 ms) will mean low latency, but that’s not always the case as there could be problems communicating with your router, your internet service provider (ISP) or to a game server because of high amounts of traffic. High latency (which can go above 100 ms) is usually the culprit of lag, which all gamers detest and can cause some devastating losses in competitive play. Your ISP’s connection type—fiber, cable, or DSL—plays a crucial factor in how low or high the rate of your ping and latency is.

Geolocation

Be aware that latency and internet speeds are affected by your location relative to the server you are pinging to. Because of this, ISPs do not advertise their latency but you can see averages through this FCC study. You can also try to change the server you are connecting to if you are experiencing high latency.

What are the Best Internet Speeds for Gaming?

This may be surprising for some but most popular games will only require a broadband connection with download speeds up to 3 Mbps and upload speeds up to 1 Mbps to be playable. Depending on the platform however, there may be some higher requirements.

Internet Speed Requirements for Popular Games and Devices

Platform Game Download Speeds (Mbps) Upload Speeds
(Mbps)
Latency (Ms)
Xbox One Halo: The Master Chief Collection, Red Dead Online, 2k20, Rocket League 1.5+ .768+ <100
Playstation 4 Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, Grand Theft Auto Online, Mortal Kombat 11, Fifa 20 3+ 1+ <100
Nintendo Switch Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Splatoon 2 3+ 1+ <100
PC Overwatch, Fortnite, Apex Legends, League of Legends, DOTA 2 3+ 1+ <100
Google Stadia Destiny 2, Borderlands 3, Doom Eternal, Final Fantasy XV 10-35(4K quality)+ 1+ <100
Geforce Now Dauntless, Path of Exile, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Control 15-25(1080p quality)+ 1+ <100
Playstation Now Dishonored 2, Resident Evil 4, The Last of Us, Bloodborne 5+ 1+ <100
Twitch Streaming N/A N/A 3-6+ N/A

For an individual living by oneself, internet speeds are not critical when it comes to online play and a smaller gaming library. Basic internet plans that provide 10-15 Mbps are plenty to visit your friend’s island on Animal Crossing: New Horizons or ganking noobs on League of Legends.

However, if you enjoy playing many different games every month through a service like Xbox Game Pass, Playstation Now, Google Stadia, or GeForce Now, you will need internet speeds ranging between 50-100 Mbps to download multiple games at a fairly fast pace with high-quality graphics and least amount of lag when cloud gaming. No need to worry about upload speeds as they usually scale with higher download speeds and isn’t a common problem.

If you are a streamer on twitch or a similar platform, you will want to have about upload speeds of at least 6 Mbps for a 1080p, 60 fps broadcast, which is usually packaged on a higher tier in the 100-150 Mbps download speed range.

Keep in mind, that unless you are playing a gaming cloud service, your download speeds will only really matter when downloading and not actual gameplay. A tip from the pros: if you are going to play a new game the next day, you can always download it the night before while you sleep instead of anxiously waiting as your friends are getting XP ahead of you in Call of Duty.

Online Gaming Speed Requirements for Every Household

Household Type Download Speeds Upload Speeds
Small Households (1-2) 10-50 Mbps 1-5 Mbps
Medium Households (2-3) 50-150 Mbps 1-10 Mbps
Large Households (4+) and Streamers 150+ Mbps 10+ Mbps

For gamers that live with other gamers or have families in the same household, it’s important to understand the concept of bandwidth and data transfer. Bandwidth is how much data can travel in a certain amount of time.

If you can imagine a road with a single lane, this will represent a bandwidth of 1 Mbps and cars traveling on this road will represent 1 Mb (Megabit) of data. Given the speed of the cars is irrelevant, to get 10 cars or 10 Mb of data from one end of the road to the other will take 10 seconds. Now, if we have a 2 lane road which equates to a bandwidth of 2 Mbps, to transfer the 10 cars or Mbs will take half the time.

If a family of four—two gamers and two members streaming shows in HD quality— has a bandwidth of 50 Mbps, they will need at least 30 Mbps given those four applications are running simultaneously. Add in a couple of zoom calls and your bandwidth may be comparable to LA traffic at 5 pm causing household madness.

Knowing what types of applications and bandwidth each household member needs will ensure that during prime time, no one will need to sacrifice their video conference with friends for your sister’s Azeroth raids or a roommate’s online yoga session. It can be helpful to write down a list and add up the amounts of bandwidth that would cover all the devices that could be used at once or use our bandwidth calculator to help you choose the appropriate ISP plan. Even in extreme households, 150 Mbps is usually enough.

The Best Internet Providers for Gaming in 2020

Below is a list of the most popular ISPs and the relevant connection information for each. Check out which internet providers are available in your area by entering your zip code here.

ISP Connection Type Download Speeds (Mbps) Upload Speeds (Mbps) Data Cap
(Terabytes)
Verizon Fios Fiber 200-940 200-880 Unlimited
Frontier Fiber & Cable 50-940 50-880 Unlimited
Optimum Cable 200-940 35-40 Unlimited
Comcast Cable 25-2000 3-2000 1.2
Cox Cable 10-940 1-35 1.25
Spectrum Cable 60-940 35 Unlimited
AT&T DSL & Fiber 10-940 1-940 Unlimited

Gaming With the Different Types of Internet Connections

The type of internet connection is a crucial factor as it affects ping and latency.

DSL uses local phone lines to deliver the internet, which makes it the most widely available. However, it is usually the slowest as well as most unreliable as their bandwidth rates typically aren’t as advertised.

Cable internet is usually the standard when it comes to gaming as they have faster ping speeds and more reliable, higher bandwidth rates. The only downside to cable is that it will slow down based on the number of users around you accessing the internet at the same time.

Fiber-optic internet is made with glass or high-quality plastics. Since it is the most recently developed broadband technology, it is often considered the fastest, although not by much. It will also not slow down based on the amount of users near you, unlike cable. The real advantage is that fiber-optic will have higher upload speeds than cable, which is great for streaming or cloud-based gaming.

Rural areas typically offer wireless or satellite internet connections but these options usually have pretty high latency and are not the best options for gaming online.

How much data do you need for gaming?

Strict data cap limitations employed by ISPs often result in large bills filled with expensive overage fees. To make matters worse, some providers cut off internet access if a user goes over the allotted data amount.

Data caps come in two varieties—hard caps and soft caps. Hard caps result in service disconnection and fees if you go over. Soft caps simply charge you per GB in a-la-carte style after you max out.

It’s important to be aware of your average monthly data usage, which allows you to be prepared if your ISP has a controversial data cap. Most online games require 1-50 GB (gigabytes) per download, and minimal data usage to play thereafter.

For example, if you played 8 hours a day trying to be “the best there ever was” and your game was downloading 3 Mbps for 30 days, you would have only downloaded 324 GBs. However, if you are constantly downloading games or cloud gaming, data usage can quickly add up—especially since cloud gaming can use up to 40 GB per hour (in the example above, that would be 9.6 TBs!). If this is the case, it may be wise to opt for an internet plan with unlimited data.

The Best Setup for Serious Gamers

The quality of your router and how it’s configured are just as important as the provider and internet plan selected. Here’s a checklist on how to set up your home network for a reliable connection and uninterrupted online gaming:

  • Select a high-quality router.
  • Optimize your router.
  • Always wire when possible as Wi-Fi connections are prone to interference.
  • If you’re gaming on Wi-Fi, a quick fix for latency issues is to ensure that you’re close enough to the router to get a strong signal. Make sure that there isn’t anything next to the router that could be interfering with the signal.

What about Wireless Routers?

Wireless routers are vital pieces of equipment that connect all your devices to the internet. Depending on the amount of devices in the household, getting a router that has high bandwidth will allow your devices to take advantage of the tiered plan you purchase from your ISP. To get the best connection, you want to be sure that you connect your gaming device to your router via ethernet cable whenever possible.

Although wireless technology has come a long way, a wired connection will always be more stable. An important feature you will want to be sure your router can support is Quality of Service (QoS) which prioritizes the traffic that goes through your router. This will prevent someone streaming Netflix in the household from disrupting your connection in a competitive game of DOTA 2.

Conclusion

Any gamer can attest that having lag or sharing an inappropriately small amount of bandwidth is blood boiling at the least. The good news is that you don’t need the fastest internet speeds or cutting-edge connection to game online or even stream on Twitch. However, it is important to know what type of gamer you are (and the amount of devices and users that are accessing the internet in your household) to understand your internet and consumption needs for the best online gaming experience.

FAQs

Which internet service is best for gaming?

Any fiber-based ISP will be the best option for gaming. This is because of the low latency and high bandwidth for both downloading and uploading, which will reduce lag and download times for new gaming titles. The problem is that fiber internet is not widely available so if you have the opportunity to get fiber for gaming, you should take it.

What is the fastest WiFi for gaming?

Currently, getting a router with 801.11AC can allow theoretical speeds up to 1300 Mbps. Compared to 802.11N, which has a limit of 450 Mbps, this is a 289% increase in speed. Although wireless AC is faster, both wireless AC and N are viable if you choose not to use a wired connection and are relatively close to the router.

How many Mbps do I need for gaming?

The absolute minimum speed requirements for gaming is 3 Mbps download speed and a 1 Mbps upload speed.