What broadband speed do I need for gaming?

What broadband speed do I need for gaming?
(Image credit: Carol Yepes)

The best broadband speed for gaming could be the difference between a lag-fuelled defeat or coming out on top. Getting the best broadband deals isn't even going to be the tough part, as we've got that covered, below. The challenge is going to be coming up with an excuse for anything but a win and no...its not the controllers fault.

So what you need is speed, which means bandwidth, on your connection. Get enough and both the download and upload speed will remain fast enough to translate to a smooth gaming experience. 

The question is, how fast should your broadband be for the best gaming experience? 

How much speed do you need for gaming?

What does Mb mean?

Mb - sometimes displayed as Mbps - means 'Megabits per second' and is an easy way to compare the average speeds offered by broadband companies. 10Mb (normal ADSL internet) roughly translates into download speeds of 1.25MB per second, while 35Mb fibre broadband takes that up to over 4MB per second.

The first step is to take a broadband speed test so you know where you're at right now. From here you can workout what you need.

While you can get gaming, theoretically, by using cheap broadband running off ADSL, it's recommended that you go faster than 3Mb, if available where you are.

While some games may require more bandwidth than others, you also have to account for variations in the service at different times of day. You could also do with giving yourself some spare bandwidth to cover off use of the line by anyone else you share it with.

Why do I need more broadband speed?

Lag is your number one enemy when online gaming. This is when you get a slow connection and could end up seeing another player as still, when they are moving at you to attack. This can be avoided by getting a good enough broadband connection.

Both the download and upload speeds are important to facilitate that exchange of data between your machine and the server at the other end. The better the connection, the smoother and more accurate the gaming experience. 

Which broadband is fast enough for gaming?

The best of the best when it come to speed right now are fibre broadband deals connection. This uses fibre optics, meaning light speed data. That also means no speed limit – theoretically – in the future, as hardware at either end can be upgraded. Back to the now and it's the best way to get an ideal gaming connection.

You don't have to pay a lot to get an average speed of around 35Mb, which will serve you well for most gaming needs. But it's worth paying an extra few pounds a month to get 50Mb or more. That covers you even if someone else on the connection is watching a 4K stream in the other room, say.

Of course you might not have access to that in your area. In which case other services like satellite or phone network broadband could be good options. There's a recent trend for households turning to 4G home broadband and in some big cities even 5G home broadband, and it would be no surprise to see that perpetuate even further as 5G becomes more widely available.

What about ultrafast broadband for gaming?

While gaming, or most other tasks, won't ever take up all the bandwidth of a top-end broadband connection, it's good to have some buffer space for future upgrades and the ability to share the bandwidth with others.

Fibre broadband can now reach speeds of up to 1Gb in some areas. Yup, that's far more than you'll need for gaming. Even the Virgin Broadband with its 370Mb top-end line, and BT Broadband close offering 300Mb speeds, are probably overkill. But we say you can never have too much bandwidth as a just-in-case cover-all.

So a good idea might be to work out what you need steadily. Start at a 50Mb line and then upgrade to faster if needed. If it's money no object speed you're after, go for the fastest you can get and rest easy knowing you'll always get a lag free gaming experience. 

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Luke Edwards

Luke is a freelance writer and editor with over two decades of experience covering tech, science and health. Among many others he writes across Future titles covering health tech, software and apps, VPNs, TV, audio, smart home, antivirus, broadband, smartphones, cars and plenty more. He also likes to climb mountains, swim outside and contort his body into silly positions while breathing as calmly as possible.