Broadband – How important is it for gaming?

by MaddOx
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There is nothing worse when you’re playing games online than lag suddenly kicking in, undoing all your hard work. Whether it be your players unable to get near the opposition in eFootball PES 2020 or the person you just emptied three magazines into kills you when they should be lying on the floor with a belly full of lead. Bad broadband can lead to many a gamer ragequitting.

In fact, broadband reliability is one of the main reasons you never see major tournaments being hosted over a WiFi connection. Instead, most of the big tournaments are hosted on a local server accessed via a wired LAN (Local Area Network) connection rather than relying on connecting people’s terminals through a simple broadband hub. This is because LAN connections are often much more stable, displaying much lower latency which minimises packet data loss. In short, everything runs a lot more smoothly and you don’t end up freezing one second then hoping all over the map like you were stuck in some kind of time warp the next.

The problem is, there is a very slim chance you’re going to be able to fit 100 people in your house so you can all play a game of Fortnite together. And if space wasn’t the only issue, it’s the fact that today, gaming is global. We are often playing with people from around the world and we don’t even know it. There is no way that I and our boi Chris could wipe out the Darkness from Destiny together if it wasn’t for broadband. Mainly because it’s an online-only multiplayer game, but also because neither of us could afford to fly between the UK and Malta each week just to play couch co-op.

Close up of a gamer playing video games at a LAN event

How do you find what the best broadband is for you?

Firstly you want to check who is available in your area. Because whilst you may find some ISPs (Internet Service Provider) such as Gigaclear and Hyperoptic offering gigabit connections (wouldn’t that be nice), they aren’t widely available and are currently limited to a few cities around the UK. To find out which ISP is available in your area, you can just go to their website and type in your postcode. If they’re available in your area, great, if not, many will offer to notify you if that changes as long as you’re happy to hand over your details. Alternatively, you can just head to comparison sites that will search all providers for you at the same time, removing any that aren’t available in your postcode. This will save you a lot of time.

Once you find those that operate in your area, you’ll no doubt see a number of deals available, often with multiple from the same provider. But, there are a few main characteristics you want to check out when looking for a broadband deal before you jump straight in for the cheapest one. They are; speed, download/upload limits and whether the ISP you go with uses traffic management. Speed and the D/U limits are self-explanatory, they tell you how fast your broadband could be (notice I didn’t say will be), and if you are limited to downloading or uploading a set amount of data. As for traffic management that can be the real kick in the teeth.

Some ISPs use traffic management others don’t, and there are those that cover both options, normally only including it on their cheaper packages. Essentially what this does is throttle your speed to manage their user base, so that 38mb connection you’re paying for, soon becomes 10mb. This is to try and minimise latency issues across the whole network. And whilst it sounds like a great idea, in theory, this can often be the reason why your broadband connection becomes less stable and you find your gaming session becomes ruined by lag, or that you can no longer smoothly stream footage of you playing your favourite games. I myself suffered greatly from this when I was Virgin Media, all because they stated I was using 4x the national average bandwidth. A quick switch over to BT and those issues are a thing of the past.

But to decide what package is best for you, you need to think about what you’re using it for. Is it just to play with friends? Are you looking to get into competitive gaming? Or are you simply wanting to be a content creator/streamer entertaining the numerous folk looking for something to watch on sites like Mixer and Twitch? Each one could lead you down a different broadband path. For example, if you want to stream or just create let’s play videos, you’ll want someone who offers good upload speeds. If you’re playing games online with friends, just your average broadband package may suffice, but if you’re looking at going pro, you’ll want the best edge possible over your opponents and will likely have to splash the cash on a larger package with higher speeds and fewer restrictions.

Broadband Connected in various different types of properties

Finding yourself a good deal

As I mentioned further up, you could go to the individual ISP’s to see what offers they have on, or you can go to a comparison site. Just like you do with your car insurance and other household bills. These sites will likely vary in price because usually, they earn some kind of commission, and the more people they refer, the more money they’ll make and the better discounts they’ll likely be able to offer you. You know how it is. It’s all supply and demand.

There is another way to find yourself great deals too, and it’s using cashback websites like Quidco. Very much like the point I made above, they tend to do exclusive deals with certain providers but you’ll not only get yourself some great deals, you can also earn a tonne of cashback. The last time I switched, I managed to bag myself £150 on top of the deal BT had on at the time and their offer of a free £100 gift card with the purchase of a new contract. That’s £250 I had to spend on what I wanted. What’s even better, three months later they sent me a letter saying their prices were going up and I could leave without any penalty fees. So I did. And rejoined again using the exact same offer I found on Quidco at the original price I was paying. That was another £250 in my pocket and I avoided the price hike. But it’s not just BT you can find those offers with, they have most other major providers on the site too.

One thing to look out for when deal hunting is to also check out what kind of guarantees each ISP offers. Many now offer advantages such as receiving broadband in every room of your house and provide you with free WiFi extenders. Or, they’ll offer refunds to you if your average speed drops below a certain amount, which is usually a good one to go for because at least if you do suffer from lag occasionally, you might at least get money back for the poor service and it’ll encourage them to sort out any issues instead of fobbing you off. One other feature some ISPs offer is if your broadband goes down, they’ll either send you a portable router hooked up to a 4G sim card for you to game on, or there could be one already fitted into your router as a backup. Either way, for the sake of what may be £1 more a month from one ISP to another, if they at least offer you some guarantees, I’d say it’s worth taking the hit.

Other options

Besides your typical broadband, there are other options available too, and I have already touched on one. The 4G sim cards that some providers use as a back-up. In some locations, especially rural areas, this 4G connection can actually be better than your broadband line. In fact, I know BT have started sending hubs to rural locations with 4G sims in the back because connections out there can be so unreliable. And having spoken with some of their engineers that were on-site at my workplace, they weren’t even aware initially these were being sent out and were surprised when being sent to calls where people reported speeds dropping. They would turn up and all would seem fine, with low speeds that would be expected, and it wasn’t until they investigated they realised that what was happening was their broadband connection was going down, and so the 4G sim card was kicking in, so rather than getting a poor 2mb connection, they were actually receiving around 20mb.

Which makes you wonder, would it be possible to get a SmartPhone with a 4G or even 5G sim, that you could use as a hotspot to play games? Well yes, it is, I already use my work phone to hotspot my work laptop, and it’s a much faster and stable connection than our broadband in the office. And even with my personal mobile, I’ll sometimes stream videos to my TV if the broadband is down due to maintenance, and the majority of the time you wouldn’t even tell it was being done through a mobile. The only issue is that it can use a lot of data, and whilst most deals for broadband will come with unlimited bandwidth, that’s not the case for most phone providers. You could search for the best mobile phone deals and see if there are providers who offer unlimited data or at least enough to not leave you with a massive bill at the end of the month. But do check first to make sure there are no restrictions in place that cap speed etc. before you go down this route. And also expect your battery to be drained fast.

5G Networks

And that pretty much sums up this session looking at broadband for gamers. I could go on forever, and who knows, maybe I will do another piece on this in the near feature. But for now, hopefully, we’ve helped you identify what it is that will suit your needs best, how to track down some great deals, as well as a possible alternative to gaming online if you don’t actually have any reliable ISPs in your area. In the meantime though, why don’t you check out more of our featured posts by clicking HERE. And if you liked this post or found it helpful, or even think we missed out some important info, then by all means, please leave a comment at the bottom of the page and share the hell out of it on social media. Until next time folks!

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