Having terrible internet can completely ruin online gaming, whether it’s dropped connections booting you out of games, better-connected players getting the jump on you, or endlessly waiting for a game update to download – the broadband you choose can make a huge difference to your gaming experience.
You might think that gaming online requires the fastest internet speeds possible, but you will be surprised how modest most internet requirements are for playing games online.
Just keep in mind that these estimates are minimum requirements for the device alone, not recommendations for your entire household’s broadband speed, and that these speeds will likely increase if you want to play in a higher quality like Full HD or 4K.
If you’ve got an Xbox and want to play games online, Microsoft recommends that you have a minimum internet speed of 1.5Mbps for downloads and 768Kbps for upload – speeds that should be easily achievable for most of the UK.
If you’ve got a PS4, Sony recommends an internet speed of 3Mbps for downloads and an upload speed of 1Mbps. Speeds that should be easily attainable with the most basic broadband.
In its troubleshooting guide, Nintendo recommends a minimum internet speed of 3Mbps for downloads and an upload speed of 1Mbps for Nintendo Switch Online.
Gaming on a PC has so many variables that it’s hard to say a definitive internet speed requirement – if you look at the games that you want to play they will have minimum requirements which will usually say what internet speeds are recommended for playing online.
Google Stadia is a bit different from PC gaming or console gaming in that it’s a cloud gaming service which directly streams over the entire gameplay over the internet.
Because of that, you will need much faster broadband. Google recommends a minimum internet speed of 10Mbps. And if you want to play games in 4K resolution, you’ll need a broadband speed of more than 35Mbps.
More and more of the games that we play and purchase are digital downloads, meaning that there is no physical game disc and that the entire game needs to be downloaded before it can be played. If you want to play a lot of digital titles, the speed of your broadband service will be crucial.
For example, the latest Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare is a staggering 180GB download for the game. So, even if you have a relatively fast broadband speed of 50Mbps, it would still take more than 8 hours to download the game before you could even play it! If you plan on playing a lot of digital-only titles and want to play them as soon as they launch, you will need to look at the top end broadband speeds available.
A lot of game developers will update their games after their initial launch – these updates help fix bugs and new features that are essential for gamers. But sometimes these updates can be extremely large. For example, Call Of Duty recently pushed out an 18GB update that players had to download before they could play the game. Obviously, the faster your broadband speed, the faster this download can be done and you can get on with gaming, but also the update will take up less bandwidth at the time, which will allow you to use the internet at ease even while it’s being hogged by a heavy download.
As you can see from the list above you don’t actually need top-end broadband speeds to enjoy online gaming, but there are definitely aspects of gaming online that will be smoother with a faster broadband connection.
If you want to livestream your gaming to an audience using services like Twitch or Mixer, the most important aspect of your broadband speed will be the upload speed. Twitch recommends having an upload speed of more than 10Mbps for live streaming (this would be on top of the speed needed to actually play the game too). Getting an upload speed that fast will only be available on the higher-speed broadband deals.
Unfortunately, broadband speed isn’t the only thing you need to consider when trying to find the best broadband for gaming. Here’s our roundup of the most important questions to ask yourself:
If you are serious about gaming, you need to consider the latency of your broadband connection. But what is latency? Latency is the time that it takes for data to travel from your gaming machine to the game’s server.
If you're gaming, you want the latency to be as little as possible, making the game feel more responsive and giving you a much better experience.
Ping is how latency is measured and is shown in milliseconds – which allows you to compare it across deals. The lower the ping, the better your gaming experience will be. Generally speaking, a ping of less than 100 ms is considered the minimum requirement for a stable online gaming experience.
However, if you are playing competitively and don’t want to be at a disadvantage to your opponents, a ping of less than 50 ms is considered better. If you’re after the best broadband for gaming, get in touch with your potential new ISP and ask them what latency and ping you can expect from your service.
Ofcom’s latest data shows that the ISP with the lowest average latency across the board was BT. But the vast majority of ISPs all had low latency levels that should deliver a really solid gaming performance, including big providers like Virgin Media, Plusnet, Sky and TalkTalk.
Throttling or traffic management is when an ISP deliberately slows down your connection during peak times to make sure that all of its internet users have a stable service, instead of bandwidth being hogged by a small number of heavy users.
But if you’re gaming (or especially live streaming your game) during these peak hours, you might experience serious delays and lags in your game. When looking at broadband gaming deals, be sure to check out your ISPs traffic management policy. You can read more about how different ISPs handle traffic here.
When trying to find the best broadband deal for gaming, you will want to consider how reliable the broadband service is. There’s nothing more frustrating than waiting to load into a game only for your internet service to drop through no fault of your own.
Of course! ADSL is the most widely-available type of connection in the UK. Ofcom’s latest data shows that the average ADSL connection achieves 8.6Mbps, which should be enough speed to game online with services like Xbox Live and PlayStation Network – but if you can get faster broadband speeds at your home, we would recommend investing in the fastest broadband you are able to get in order to have the best online gaming experience.
While connecting your gaming device using Wi-Fi will be the easiest way to get it online, if you are experiencing trouble with your gaming connections, you might be better off plugging your console or PC directly into the router using an ethernet cable.
That’s because a direct connection between your gaming device and the router means that no data will be lost, unlike Wi-Fi which can have its signal interrupted and can negatively impact your gaming performance.
If you’re suffering from slow internet when gaming, you might not have to find a whole new broadband provider to fix the problem – there could be a simpler solution:
If you’re connected to the internet using Wi-Fi, try plugging your gaming device directly into the router with an ethernet cable. This will help stop data loss and could drastically improve your online gaming experience, especially if you’re able to get gigabit speeds, because current Wi-Fi technology can’t handle speeds of about 500Mbps and above.
If plugging in your gaming device isn’t a realistic solution, you might want to look at where your router is located in your house. Many of us hide away the router behind something so that it’s out of sight, but this can limit the performance of your Wi-Fi. The best place to put your router is at the centre of the house where it’s not covered or obstructed by anything.
Although most routers supplied with broadband deals are more than capable of handling day to day internet tasks, more heavyweight activities like playing games and live streaming content might push it to its limit.
If you are constantly running into connection problems it might be worth upgrading your router – which could end up costing you less than switching broadband providers. Have a read of our best broadband routers guide for more information.
If you have a mobile broadband solution like MiFi, you might wonder if you would be able to connect up your gaming device and play online? If you have a strong 4G or 5G signal, you should be able to play games online just fine.
The only thing you really need to be wary of is the amount of data that you will use. While playing games online doesn’t use a lot of data, downloading console software updates or game patches can quickly chew through any included data.
If you’re gaming on a mobile or tablet, the speed of your broadband shouldn’t have too big an impact on the performance of your gaming. We’d suggest a minimum of 5Mbps download speed and 1Mbps upload for stable performance.
First things first, head over to our handy broadband speed checker and find out what your current ping is. Now you know what your ping is, it’s time to start troubleshooting.
One of the easiest ways to lower ping is to forgo the Wi-Fi connection and plug your gaming device directly into the router.
If you’re trying to lower your ping, speed is key. If your router offers it, make sure you are connected to the 5GHz Wi-Fi network because it’s faster than a 2.4GHz network.
It’s the oldest tech support trick in the book, but turning your router off and on can help clear out the cache and sometimes lower your ping.
Is someone in your house watching their favourite Netflix show in Ultra HD while you’re trying to game? Too many people using the internet could be crowding the bandwidth and raising your ping.