Gaming Internet Speed: Packets & Ping

Now, friends, it’s time to talk about something near and dear to all of our hearts: the internet. Yes, that’s right, the internet. The host to all of our gaming wins, losses and moments of defeat where we SWORE our game was just lagging.

Other than gaming, the internet is the essential foundation for cycling through information in our daily lives. Especially these days with a high volume of people working from home, their internet speeds need to be top notch if they’re planning on getting work done.

Working from home is turning into a popular trend amongst workers. According to the U.S. Census,

“5.2% of workers in the US worked at home in 2017—or 8 million people….The rise has been aided by improved internet connectivity and the demand for more flexible work environments.”

That demand for improved internet speed is essential. How do you even begin to trudge through the muck and mire of internet basics and connectivity? Luckily, I’m here to help you through this.

Bandwidth


I know you’ve heard bandwidth before. It’s basically how much information an internet connection can handle. This used to be a huge problem for popular sites in the earlier days of the internet. Sites that would have high traffic would need to increase their bandwidth or have their site either get charged through service providers or suffer from a slower performance.

A metaphor that keeps coming up with bandwidth is that of a highway. The more cars on a highway, the more it crowds the space. If the same amount of cars (users) is now crowding a road (site) with two lanes instead of four, things could get messy and complicated.

Bandwidth is affected by everything you do on the Internet. Imagine a household that has multiple devices, all doing something internet intensive. This will slow your bandwidth significantly. When my roommate is streaming the latest Netflix series, it’s really difficult for me to get my work done, as it is eating up all the bandwidth available.

I always thought my apartment’s internet connection was poor; turns out FRANK needs to stream shows on ALL his devices…come on, man! You’ll need to compensate for the data by getting access to more Mbps to balance everything out.

I guess I should call my internet provider. Maybe then I can finally work through a few hours straight without my internet crapping out.

Mbps


It’s miraculous that the chaos that is the internet is luckily so well-maintained through the various amounts of Mbps you can harness.

Bandwidth deals in Mbps, or megabits per second. The megabits are the lifeblood of the internet connection. Now bear with me, it is easy to confuse with MBps, which refers to megabytes per second and how big a file you are downloading is.

Now, your Mbps needs are dependent on what you primarily use the internet for. Do you game a lot online? Stream the latest movies and TV shows in 4K definition? It really runs the gamut. I’ve seen an agreed upon number is usually 25 or so Mbps for a standard household.

If you are more the type to browse the web leisurely, maybe breaking up the routine by checking emails, etc., then you could probably get away with using about 1-5 Mbps. But if your computer is a powerhouse, you’re playing online games all day, and downloading the highest definition media, then you might even need upwards of 200 Mbps.

I just took an internet provider survey seeing what the best speed I would need and got 30 Mbps. I’m not as into hardcore online gaming as I was 10 years ago, so my internet speed demands aren’t too crazy.

All it takes is an easy check like that to make sure you have what you need, and multiple sites can point you in the right direction.

Gaming


two men playing PC games
I remember the days of playing the MMORPG Dark Age of Camelot for the PC back in the early 2000s. My friends and I would stay up to ungodly hours playing, much to the dismay of our families and social lives. This was literally all fun and games until someone in the house used the phone.

The phone used to be tied up with the internet connection, and every time someone would use the phone, the internet would go out. We lost a lot of good loot because of that annoyance and thinking about it now brings back painful gaming memories.

Luckily, the phone has become everyone’s favorite internet companion, so the only issue you need to worry about now is if you have enough Mbps to play smoothly.

I briefly mentioned that if you were a gamer, you would most likely need more Mbps and obviously a higher internet connection speed. Back when I was playing online shooters like Counter-Strike and Payday 2, my internet would have been flashier.

Nowadays, minor gaming like strategy games and activities like writing and research take up my computer time.

An agreed upon amount of Mbps for adequate gaming is somewhere around 20+. Anything below 20 could result in some irritating lag that ruins your experience. Now, if you’re on your own, this should be enough.

But what if you’re sharing a house with others who also partake in internet-heavy activities? After looking around, the safe consensus is that if you get over 50 Mbps, any potential lag issues coming out of an internet-heavy household will be non-existent.

However, this is very general, and might not apply to all different genres of games. Again, I’m not at risk anymore for losing loot. But are you?

Obviously, the heavy hitters are the MMO’s and FPS titles. It’s usually recommended that a player has anything above 12 Mbps. Again, if you’re riding easily at 20 and above, you shouldn’t have any issues with lag.

Ping and Packet Loss


You may also see these terms being thrown around, especially in the gaming communities, and they’re important enough to have their own section.

First, something that you can usually take stock of in a game, ping will be measured in online games well within the view of other gamers, letting them know what other players’ internet connectivity is like, and if they’ll encounter performance issues.

“Also referred to as “lag,” “ping rate,” or simply “ping,” latency refers to the time from when a message is sent from one location on the internet to another and back. Latency or ping can be affected by nearly everything that can go wrong on your internet.”

It seems a light breeze can sometimes affect your ping. Only kidding…or am I?

This goes hand-in-hand with the dreaded ‘packet loss’, where the info that took too long to arrive at the destination just…disappears. At least with lag, you usually end up performing an action in-game, albeit slowly and delayed.

Dial-up Internet


You’d probably recognize dial-up by the ominous, screeching electronic sounds that it would emit when you were attempting a login, usually lasting minutes, and even back then was a real pain. You couldn’t load images as quickly as you can today, and the idea of videos being played on your computer screen was just a pipedream.

Unbelievably, but there are millions of people who are STILL using dial-up. Granted, the number is dropping every year, but there are people accessing the internet the same as they could have in the early 1990s. Imagine trying to access simple images of family members on Facebook.

It would take you long minutes for the image to slowly and ungraciously pixelize in front of your eyes. So, what’s the deal here exactly? Why do people still cling to the most outdated form of internet connectivity, especially through a seemingly antiquated middleman like AOL?

“32% of dial-up users said they couldn’t afford to upgrade. Most of the rest said broadband either wasn’t available — or they just didn’t care to change. AOL counted 4.6 million dial-up users in 2010, and only 500,000 people or so leave every year.”

This article ominously states that dial-up will continue to be in vogue with these people up to 2019 and probably later. It’s insane to me!

It’s still an unbelievable fact that there are those still out there logging in to the slowest possible connection, willingly paying nearly the same amount of money a month as they would be with more modern connections. However, to each their own, I suppose. I can kind of admire them for their stubbornness.

DSL


You may have heard DSL—Digital Subscriber Line. It succeeded in the stone-age era dial-up connections where my internet browsing and gaming were obliterated before my eyes.

So there are two types of the DSL connection:

  • Symmetrical DSL:
    It means exactly that: the symmetrical balance between download speed and internet use. There’s an equal share of bandwidth between uploading and downloading. This is ideal if you upload and download equal amounts.
  • Asymmetrical DSL:
    This is the popular type of DSL where bandwidth is unequal. basically, people download more information than uploading. I know I am. This results in more bandwidth flowing downstream and less going up.

Again, it all comes down to bandwidth—how many cars can fit on that internet highway? This is a step above dial-up and a step below the faster, alternative means for the internet.

Fiber


Fiber optic internet is currently the fastest internet access available. It’s obviously faster than DSL, but it’s also faster than the far more common cable options. It’s actually only available in just about a quarter of the population of the United States.

The speed, however, is unmatched. It measures its download speed in Gbps—yep, gigabits—we’ve upgraded. That’s 1,000 Mbps. Your worries about which internet plan is best for your gaming habits is invalid.

The cost of fiber internet can be pretty steep though, and you may have seen the lengthy and messy installation that happens at households: crews come and dig up the ground to install the fiber optic cable. For example, in my area, the very basic fiber optic packages are more expensive and have more complicated plans and contracts than those with slower internet speeds.

LAN (Local Area Network)


Local Area NetworkNow, this is the fun stuff right here. LAN, or local area network, is when different computers are all hooked into the local area network, usually in a small space like someone’s room or house. People would literally lug their bulky PCs to their friend’s houses for hardcore tournaments in games Counter-Strike.

This provided an intimate atmosphere for gaming, one that was great for bonding with friends over games. The computers or other devices involved all share one internet connection. Not only could it be used for gaming, but for company business like a server hosting email and other company assets.

I’m into this close connectivity—it shows that people are all on the same page and provides some robust security from outside sources.

Internet Service Providers


Internet Service Providers, or ISPs, are just that: they sell you access to the internet. The ISP opens up your computer to the internet, allowing you to partake in some of our favorite activities like gaming or shopping. Usually, people utilize the internet through cable companies like xfinity and Verizon, selling homeowners bundles containing cable and internet, or some combination thereof.

It’s intimidating to look through all of these company names and not know if they’re shortchanging you or not. How do you go about finding the best internet service provider for you and your needs?

Ethernet vs. Wi-Fi


Ethernet vs. Wi-Fi
Wi-Fi, or wireless fidelity, is a phenomenon which we all clamoring for. No more hardwiring your computer to an internet modem and router; everything was, yes, WIRELESS. I would say the majority of internet users today are tethered to their phone via Wi-Fi, making it the more popular of the two, but ethernet is still a solid option.

The physical connection that an ethernet cable has provides better connectivity in some cases. Wi-Fi is susceptible to interference with its signal, making your connection unstable in some cases. Ethernet has a consistent speed throughout.

I will always defend wired, ethernet connections because they are more secure than wireless. As a suburban kid growing up, we were always warned of scary hackers lurking just out of sight, just WAITING to get to your info. Little did our parents know that we were relatively safe back then, and NOW we have to worry about that.

This also harkens back to LAN connections. The hard connection that the ethernet provides for the LAN gives them a more cohesive and robust connection. However, it’s a foregone conclusion that we are moving towards a more wireless society.

It’s just more convenient and easier than to deal with untold amounts of wires, wires that could fray and decay. Ethernet speeds are great and dependable and would probably serve you best if you were gaming and streaming things constantly. But Wi-Fi is the future, and I think it will eventually phase out the need for ethernet in the coming decades.

Best ISPs for Gaming

Now for those of us, (the 75% of the population), who maybe can’t afford a fancy-schmancy fiber optic cable being violently installed in your front lawn, we’ve got some different options that are serviceable. I’ve narrowed it down to the heavy hitters on the internet. You’ve probably seen these names, but now let’s look at what they’re all about.

Verizon Fios:

  • Fast speeds
  • Great for multiplayer gaming
  • Low Ping
  • Low packet loss

Fios is pretty great for your gaming needs. Not a lot of lag, low amount of ping ensures that you won’t be rage quitting anytime soon. I remembered when it debuted years ago, and it seemed like a miracle for gaming. It proves to still be the king of speedy internet. Fios comes in different plans varying from $40-80 for 100-940 Mbps

Xfinity:

  • Amazing speed
  • Wide access

Xfinity is seemingly all-encompassing. It’s everywhere you look, and honestly, it’s not surprising as to why. It boasts a 2,000 Mbps download speed.

I have Xfinity and I haven’t experienced any lag or packet loss on my consoles or on my computer, so that’s a plus. Their plans are pretty good too: they range from $30 for 15 Mbps to the insane $300 for 2,000 Mbps. Granted, that’s a lot of Mbps, so the price could be argued to be warranted, but I’d say that’s the main downside of Xfinity.

Cox:

  • Good prices
  • Good balance of Mbps to price
  • Solid speed for value

I think that Cox is a great option for those who aren’t hardcore gaming or live streaming. They have a better price model than the other two. However, if you’re signing up with Cox, a one-year contract is the standard, so there might be no wiggle room if you do run into gaming trouble for some reason. Their prices run from $30 for 10 Mbps to $80 for 300 Mbps.

These are the gold standards in ISPs and will deliver you polished and well-honed gaming experiences. Their prices are reasonable, giving the casual gamer easy access to what they need, and also allowing hardcore gamers to have some of the highest Gbps out there currently.

Internet connectivity is so vital for our everyday lives. How we function as a society, how we communicate and interact. It also provides us outlets for our hobbies and passions. Don’t you want the best connection that suits you? More info to help you is out there, you just have to peruse a little bit and you can find everything you’re looking for.

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