How Much Speed Do I Need for Online Gaming?

Michelle Ricker By Michelle Ricker March 25, 2021

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.  

The Right Internet Speed for Online 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.   

The internet service plan that’s right for you 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 who’s choosing a high-speed internet plan for online gaming.  

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. If you have fiber internet, your download and upload speeds will match (also known as symmetrical speed). Most internet service types, including cable internet, have asymmetrical speed  where upload speeds are slower than downloads.  

However, the more devices you have connected at once, the more speed you’ll need.

Each connected device requires some of your internet plan’s bandwidth, (the maximum amount of data you can upload or download at once) so each additional device requires a speed boost.  

What does that actually mean? A speed of 25 Mbps to game might work if you’re the only one using your internet connection at time. But if you live with others, have connected smart home devices, or play with the highest graphics setting, you’ll likely want more speed. For every person in your house wholl be connected to a high-data activity at the same time (whether they’re also gaming, streaming, or video chatting), you’ll probably want to add 25 Mbps. Three people in your home, and you all tend to be online at the same time? You’ll likely want at least 75 Mbps download speed.  

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

Another consideration is the type of internet you have. While cable internet is widely available, it shares connections across multiple households. Not only do you need to worry about the people in your own home, but your neighbors’ data use will also affect your bandwidth. That’s why we recommend fiber internet for gamingWith the fastest available speeds, a dedicated connection, and symmetrical upload and download speeds, fiber 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 service provider with no internet data caps 

Michelle Ricker

Michelle Ricker

Michelle Ricker is a Copywriter for EarthLink. She recently 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.

Filed Under: Internet

Reliable, high-speed internet is an essential part of our lives. Find out how it all works — from speed tests to fast fiber internet to the latest innovations (from an ISP that’s been here from the beginning).