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How Much Speed Do I Need for Online Gaming?

Michelle Ricker By Michelle Ricker March 25, 2021

Updated 3/4/22

Summary: High-speed internet is an essential component of online gaming – you can’t conquer other players with lags and freezes! But how much speed do you actually need? We explore speed recommendations, how to adjust for your household, what to do if you’re experiencing lag times, and why you should choose an internet service provider with no data caps if you’re a gamer.

If you’re an online gamer, you know you need a reliable high-speed internet connection – especially if your opponents keep winning because you’re struggling with slow cable internet and speed asymmetryLet’s dig into what “gaming-fast internet speed” really means, and what to look for in a provider.  

Why Internet Speed Matters for Gaming

Have you ever blamed your internet connection — or, more accurately, an internet lag — for your farm’s troubles or battle losses while online gaming? We’ve been there. But if it’s happening frequently it might be time to check that you’ve got enough speed to support your gaming system.

Choosing the right internet plan depends on your internet habits. What else are you doing online: work, school, video calls, streaming? How much time do you spend connected each day? How many devices are connected at once? If you’ve only got one to two devices and you’re mainly sending emails and surfing the web, you’ll be able to use a lower speed.

But that’s not true for anyone asking the question “How many Mbps do I need for gaming?” — or anyone who hopes to improve their online gaming stats.

An infographic showing that you can video call, game, or stream with a speed of 25 Mbps per person.

While recommended speeds vary slightly depending on your console and game type, you should be aiming for a download speed of at least 25 Mbps and an upload speed of 5 Mbps. But if you’re doing anything else while gaming (think: chatting on Discord or downloading gaming files in the background), you’ll need more speed.

Most internet plans focus on the download speed — how fast you can receive information from the internet. But you also need to consider upload speeds. Upload speeds are how fast you can send information (including the movements and actions of your character in the game). Traditionally, speeds have been asymmetrical, with download speeds being faster than upload. But upload speeds have become more important than ever because of the role they play in interactive situations.

So the real question might be: what is a good upload speed for gaming?

What is a Good Internet Speed for Gaming?

At a minimum, you’ll need at least 25 Mbps of download speed — but we wouldn’t call that a good download speed for gaming. For intense multiplayer games, you’ll likely want to find a plan that offers at least 100 Mbps download speed. But depending on what the rest of your household is doing (like streaming or playing a game of their own), you’ll need more than that. Speeds up to 200, 300, and even 400 Mbps are all good for gaming.

While you don’t have to have the same amount of upload speed, it’s one way to get closer to victory. And while 5 Mbps upload speed will work, that’s not a good upload speed for gaming, either. The best gaming internet option? Fiber internet. Not only does fiber internet offer the fastest speeds available (up to 1 Gbps), but it also has symmetrical speeds. In other words, if you opt for a 300 Mbps plan, that means you’re getting 300 Mbps in download and upload speeds.

As a bonus, fiber internet offers a dedicated connection while cable internet shares connections across multiple households. So cable users have to worry about the people in their own home plus their neighbors when it comes to strain on the network.

With the fastest available speeds, a dedicated connection, and symmetrical upload and download speeds, fiber is the most reliable high-speed internet service on the market.

 

How to Reduce Lag Time 

Lag times are the Achilles heel of online gaming. A ping rate, or latency, is how much time your device needs to send signals to a server and receive a response back. The lower it is, the better. An ideal ping rate is less than 50 milliseconds (shown as ms if you run a speed test), but anything less than 100 ms is average. If your ping rate is over 150 ms, you’re likely experiencing problems.  

When faced with high ping times, most games will process another player’s move first. If you’re playing a first-person game, that means your avatar could be on the ground before you even realize you’ve been hit.   

Not sure how your internet service provider measures up? Take our speed test and find outThere are a few things you can try if you’re experiencing lag time issues: 

  1. Move closer to your router (and make sure the signal isn’t blocked) 
  2. Close any apps or windows you’re not using 
  3. Disconnect any devices you’re not using from your network  
  4. Restart your router 

If your connection is still leaving you in the dust, it may be time to upgrade your internet service plan.  

Why You Should Avoid Data Caps 

If you’re an avid gamer, you’ve probably already heard about internet data caps. To put it simply, data caps are a restriction on how much data you can send and receive online. Once you reach your monthly limit, your internet service provider can either throttle you down to lower speeds or hit you with a hefty fee. Casual internet users rarely reach these limits, but those who enjoy streaming or gaming — especially if you’re gaming with friends, using Twitch, or prefer high-definition graphics — are more likely to hit the data ceiling.

You already know that high-speed internet is a critical piece of online gaming, so you definitely want to avoid speed throttling. Your best bet? Choose a fiber internet provider with no data caps and no throttling.

An inline ad stating, "EarthLink's been rated #1 in Internet Speed, Price, Reliability, and Customer Satisfaction

If you’re in a high-data-consuming household and you’re wanting to game competitively, fiber internet is your best option. Fiber internet has the lowest available ping times, the fastest upload and download speeds, and can support the most devices at once. Bonus: fiber uses a dedicated line, so it doesn’t matter if your whole apartment building is online at once. Your connection won’t be affected. And if you don’t want to worry about needing to upgrade your speed in the future? Go for a 1 Gbps (or 1 Gig) plan. It’s the gold standard.

Now that you know how to choose the right high-speed internet plan, reduce lag times, and avoid data caps, your internet is more prepared for online gaming than ever. Ready to upgrade? Find out if EarthLink Fiber Internet is available near you today.

Michelle Ricker

Michelle Ricker

Michelle Ricker is a Copywriter for EarthLink. She graduated from the University of Cincinnati with an M.A. in Communication and has more than 5 years of writing experience. She thrives on storytelling and well-placed punctuation. She currently lives and works in Atlanta.

See all posts from Michelle Ricker.

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