“Is my internet connection good?”
That question is followed by a Speedtest image from various servers around the world. After working in the Video Game Center business for awhile now, I have seen everything from DSL internet connections running 25-40 stations to monstrous T3 Fiber-optic connections running the same number of stations or more. Residential connections range from DSL connections to FiOS (if you are lucky) and can be completely horrible or the best thing since sliced bread. Here are some general factors to look for when deciding on the best internet connection for your gaming needs.
The internet provider is the single most important factor that determines how great your internet speed will run. Some areas are very limited on selecting different providers and will not have much choice on their speed. For those of us that have the luxury to select from different providers, I prefer the following:
Verizon has been widely accepted as the ultimate provider for the gaming masses. When they launched their Verizon FiOS campaign a few years ago, they had a very intense emphasis on gaming. For a period of time they even sponsored the female gaming team PMS as spokespersons for the FiOS product. FiOS is still very hard to come by and is primarily located on the east coast. You can check for Verizon FiOS availability here.
They have actually improved over the last few years, especially with their customer service. They have recently upgraded most of their infrastructure to a fiber-optic network. There are some seriously fast speeds they claim to attain nowadays. You can check them out here.
There are many different internet providers within each region of the US, try to get some feedback from other people using their provider before committing to one.
Is currently the king of internet speeds. There is still limited availability, but if you are fortunate enough to game using a Fiber Optics connection you know what all the fuss is about. Verizon FiOS delivers speeds around 20MB Down / 5MB Up.
Cable is faster than DSL and Dial up (slower than FiOS) and usually offers anywhere from 3MB of bandwidth to 15MB of bandwidth. The reality of Cable internet is that it is usually shared between however many people are using the providers connection within a given neighborhood or area. During peak hours, Cable internet users takes a huge hit in their download speeds.
DSL is almost a cross between Cable and Dial up. Speeds vary from 768KBps to about 3MB of bandwidth. The speeds are based on the proximity to your service providers office – an obvious disadvantage of having DSL. Another slight disadvantage is that the upload speeds (data sent out) over the internet are always slower than Cable. If you live in close proximity to your service provider, DSL is a great service.
Download & Upload
Let’s get a few things out in the open; a consistent download speed is pretty much all you need to game, however if you experience frequent highs and lows or “spikes” in your download speed you have an issue on your hands. Spiking can mean a wide variety of things such as a bad router, peak time for internet use, or bad ISP equipment. If you are in a dorm or using cable internet, you know all about the peak time connection spikes – there’s really no remedy for college students. Routers and equipment need to be tested and optimized in order to get the most out of your connection speed. A basic rule of thumb is the higher your download speed, the less likely you will experience lag.
Upload speed really only matters when you are hosting on a specific game. Gears of War or any Epic Studios/Unreal Engine based game seems to heavily rely on the client upload connections speeds. If you have a high upload speed, you typically have a great host. Upload speeds do not have much of an effect on latency unless you are the host of a game with a terrible Upload speed.
Ping – Latency – Lag
This is all that matters when gaming. There are not that many console titles that relay your ping to a specific server (fix that developers). Typically, most games show a status bar (green, yellow, orange, red) to display your connection to a specific server. PC players usually have the luxury of receiving the actual ping to a specific server and are much more in tune with latency issues. If you are lagging, it’s more than likely because your ping to a server really sucks. Ping is also referred to as latency which is how long it takes information to travel from one place to another. East coast to west coast players usually experience latency issues because they are further away from each other. There’s really not much of a solution except drastically improving your internet connection — FiOS will do the job.
(note: anything higher than 90ms is pretty bad for latency)
- Great Ping 30 MS <
- Good Ping 30 MS – 60 MS
Test Your Internet Speeds
There are various sites that can test your internet speed and provide the basic information needed to tell whether your connection is good or bad. Here are my top three:
Things to remember
- If you are hosting a match upload speed matters. Do not host a match while streaming – it kills the server connection for all other players.
- YouTube or loading video streams can kill your connection. You do not want to play if someone in the house is watching YouTube or Hulu videos and/or streaming.
- Check your ping when running speed tests.
- FiOS is the best possible connection for residential customers. Fiber-Optic beats out everything.