Choosing a Broadband Internet Package for Online Gaming

This is a guest post by Spencer. If you want to guest post on this site, then please read our guidelines here.

Gone are the days of computer games being played over dialup or barely-there internet connections, as technology has become more advanced, and as computers have become more powerful, games have become incredibly more demanding. So, if you’re in the market for an internet connection that will outshine your competitors’, what are the things you need to consider when doing a broadband comparison?

The Wiring

Today’s broadband internet connections generally fall into three groups, as far as wiring is concerned: there are copper connections, coaxial connections, and fiber-optic connections. Each of these has a certain set of features and drawbacks that affects the way your online game will be played.

Copper cable is generally associated with phone-line-based DSL connections, and offers the slowest internet speeds (and highest game-killing latency) of any broadband internet connection. While it’s great for casual internet users, it simply will not hold up to the demands of online gaming. Its latency will prove problematic, and its slow speeds may result in lost connections and lost games.

Coaxial cable is generally offered by cable broadband operators; these are the same cables that transmit television signals to digital cable set top boxes across the country. These connections are good, though the high speeds required for gaming will prove more expensive and rarer to find in rural markets. However, this is the predominant type of internet connection worldwide, and provides a solid way to take on the online gaming universe.

Finally, there’s the emerging market for fiber-optic internet connections. These connections are, far and away, the fastest internet connections in the world. And, as an added bonus, they typically have the lowest latency numbers of any type of internet connection. This makes them the ideal fit for gamers who need a huge amount of bandwidth that suffers from virtually no latency.

The Location

The game that you will be playing most likely operates through a central server, or a series of decentralized and user-hosted servers. These servers all have a physical location, just like your internet provider’s central office. The distance between that central office, and your online game’s servers, will determine just how much latency is experienced during game play.

Therefore, it’s important to research where your future internet provider’s main servers are located. Your distance from those servers, and their distance from your game’s host, may be the difference between virtual life and death. Remember that latency accelerates over long distances, so do your best to keep everything in the same general location or region of the country!

The Limitations

It’s no secret that bandwidth has opened up a new world of media downloads, demanding online games, and media streaming that has strained internet service providers worldwide. For this reason, many internet service providers have instituted strict limits on bandwidth use in order to keep users from abusing the ever-increasing speeds of their broadband networks.

When conducting a broadband comparison for your online gaming internet connection, pay special attention to these limits (known as “broadband caps”). Some providers may limit users to a certain number of gigabytes per month — no matter what — while others may allow unmetered usage during off-peak hours (such as the early morning or late at night). You know your game-playing and internet-using habits better than anyone else, so make sure your internet service provider works with them instead of against them.

This article was written by Spencer Hogg from the broadband comparison website Broadband Expert, where you can compare lots of different broadband offers.

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21 Responses to Choosing a Broadband Internet Package for Online Gaming

  1. guest July 18, 2011 at 10:46 pm #

    You make huge wide-sweeping assumptions without adding the obligatory “your mileage may vary”. I get less than 25ms latency to backbone and tier 2 connected servers within the UK and directly connected nearby countries – France, Denmark, Norway etc. I use DSL. 

    I live in an area covered by two separate cable companies, and due to their peering (how closely tied servers are to the backhaul network of the country), they have abysmal latency (in the region of 50ms+ for a local hop and more than 80 outside the UK). They do however offer multiple times as much bandwidth. Cable connections are not any better, overall, than DSL – both technologies have down sides. The fact that cable networks are also used to deliver TV and phone services means that the networks are considerably more complex, they need to route a LOT more data than a purely internet service and that means that congestion is far more likely to occur. Even if theoretical latency is lower, in practice it rarely manages it due to the sheer volume of traffic flowing along cable networks.

    You are entirely right about fiber, but you forget to make the distinction between FTTC (fiber to the cabinet/curb) and FTTH (Fiber to the home). Both are superior technologies to pure coax and copper, but their performance can also vary depending on implementation and peering issues.

    Finally, I would like to point out that you don’t make it clear that bandwidth, even back in the days of 512k dsl, is almost NEVER an issue for gaming. Games use almost no traffic. Online games are purely reliant on latency, except when patching and such (when you aren’t actively playing the game and latency makes no difference). 

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