The best broadband for gaming

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Love to game online? Well, you may find that your current broadband connection struggles in the heat of the moment. Unfortunately, this happens quite often as online gaming is one of the most bandwidth-hungry activities there is. 

This also means that if you purchased a very basic broadband deal, you're likely to struggle with buffering or lag at crucial moments in your games. Ever been locked in a Fortnite battle, ready to pull the trigger and noticed that there was a slight delay before you could eliminate your opponent? It's very well because your broadband connection is too slow. During this brief lag, your opponents can strike, causing you to lose a battle royale through no fault of your own. 

Thankfully, major broadband providers are aware of how popular online gaming is, as well as the demands that it can place on home broadband connections. As a result, the vast majority now offer a range of ultrafast packages that are ideal for gamers. Here's everything you need to know about the best broadband for gaming.

Why do I need gaming broadband?

Whether you're downloading new games, installing updates, or streaming live while competing with hundreds of people around the world, a fast and reliable connection will make everything smoother. 

The faster your broadband connection, the better your gameplay experience will be. To illustrate this point, let's take a look at Fortnite, one of the most popular games on the planet today. 

To play this title, Epic Games recommends download speeds of at least 3Mbps and upload speeds of at least 1Mbps. However, this minimum isn't going to cut it for competitive scenarios. Instead, we recommend a faster connection with average download speeds of 20Mbps or more. That might seem like a steep jump from the recommendations, but it will prove well worth it if you're gaming often.

A faster broadband connection makes a significant difference when it comes to performance. You'll see less lag and better response times to your input. This ensures you can stay competitive, and have a better chance of winning those all-important Battle Royales. 

A pile of video games, including PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch titles.

(Image credit: Jake Tucker / Dashiell Wood / Future)

What broadband speeds do I need for gaming?

You can technically game online with any internet connection. However, the reality is that if you have an entry-level ADSL package, then you'll likely be forced to endure a subpar gaming experience. 

Most games require you to have download speeds of at least 3Mbps. Although this doesn't seem like much, you need to remember that other devices in your home will also be using bandwidth at the same time. 

For example, if you're gaming online while another member of the family is listening to music on the smart speaker and another is watching Netflix, your broadband may be quite limited if you only have a basic connection. For this reason, it's important to make sure you have a broadband connection that's suitable for everyone's usage. 

Added to this, if you're competing online against other players, then faster definitely means better. Not only will you be able to download games and updates faster, but your 'ping rate' (the time it takes for your system to respond to an action like you pressing a button or moving a joystick) will also be much lower. This can significantly improve your performance one-versus-one.

It's also worth mentioning here that the slowest packages on the market today provide average download speeds of around 10Mbps. However, providers are incentivizing people to move away from these deals and they're replacing the technology. As a result, you can now usually access fibre broadband packages that offer speeds that are at least three times quicker for around the same price. 

Our favorite gaming broadband deals

M125 | 132Mbps | from £26 a month for 18 months

M125 | 132Mbps | from £26 a month for 18 months
One of the most popular options from Virgin, this is also one of the best bang for your buck gaming broadband packages. With average download speeds of 132Mbps and uploads of 20Mbps, you'll easily be able to play your favorite games online without issues.

BT Fibre Essential | 36Mbps download speed | From £28.99 a month for 24 months | No upfront fees

BT Fibre Essential | 36Mbps download speed | From £28.99 a month for 24 months | No upfront fees
While not their fastest package, this offering from BT is a great mix of speed and price. You'll be able to game online with ease thanks to the 18Mbps Stay Fast Guarantee and 10Mbps upload speeds. You can also get this as a 'Full Fibre' version.

Sky Ultrafast Broadband | 145Mbps average download speed | £29 a month for 18 months | No setup fees

Sky Ultrafast Broadband | 145Mbps average download speed | £29 a month for 18 months | No setup fees
If you're really into online gaming – and we mean really – this package from Sky is hard to beat. You'll have excellent speeds that will give you plenty of bandwidth, and then some. At under £30/pm it won't break the bank either.

What factors should I consider when looking at broadband for gaming packages?

As we've mentioned, your broadband speed is incredibly important when you're gaming online. But, having a reliable connection is arguably even more important. 

When you're gaming, you need to have a reliable and consistent connection that won't drop out. For this, certain types of broadband are better than others. For example, a Full Fibre broadband connection will be a lot more reliable than an ADSL one, due to its more modern infrastructure.

This means if you're looking to game online, then you need a connection that's at least part-fibre (also known as fibre-to-the-cabinet or FTTC). Sadly, gaming with a cheap ADSL connection will lead to excruciatingly slow load times, terrible lag and latency that will make it very difficult for you to win. 

Added to this, you should also double-check that your broadband deal comes without any monthly data limits. Online gaming can be data intensive and, if you're a die-hard gamer who has a connection with a data limit, you may quickly run up additional charges. 

a gamer playing a PC game

(Image credit: Future)

Which broadband package is right for me?

The type of broadband connection you require will depend on the type of gaming you enjoy. This is because different forms of gaming place different strains on your connection... and some are far more strenuous than others. 

If you like to stream your gameplay on Twitch, then you'll definitely need the fastest speeds on the market. In this scenario, a Full Fibre package is non-negotiable, and you'll likely be best served by a gigabit-capable broadband package. 

Similarly, if you're a professional gamer or someone who takes their gaming incredibly seriously, then it's also worth investing in a Full Fibre package as this will likely provide you with a smoother overall experience. 

However, if you're just a hobbyist or someone who plays for fun on an evening in a multiplayer lobby, then a part-fibre package will probably suffice. 

Which providers offer broadband for gaming? 

Nowadays, a lot of the UK's best internet service providers offer broadband packages that are suitable for gamers. Our favourites include: 

  • Vodafone – With Vodafone you receive competitively-priced packages, a great range of speeds and class-leading customer service. 
  • Virgin Media - Looking for some of the fastest speeds available? Try Virgin Media. Via their own cable network, they provide a Gig1 package that provides average download speeds of more than 1Gbps. 
  • Plusnet - This particular provider is popular because it offers affordable and straightforward broadband packages. Although it's a little 'no frills', Plusnet offers excellent value for money and a range of packages that are suitable for gamers. 
  • EE – EE is currently the UK's fastest broadband provider and offers a package that provides average download speeds of up to 1.6Gbps. If you're a professional gamer, this is likely to be the provider for you. 
  • BT – BT has long been a reliable option for gamers all across the country. The BT Complete WiFi offering ensures comprehensive coverage throughout your home. This means you'll always have a connection that allows you to game without lag and buffering. 

The Xbox Series X and Xbox One X games consoles

(Image credit: TechRadar)

Can I use mobile broadband for gaming? 

Yes. A 4G or a 5G mobile broadband connection will usually be quick enough for you to game online.

These packages will usually offer download speeds of at least 25Mbps and upload speeds of 5Mbps. This will allow you to play most online games without any lag. However, if you want to play the most demanding games on the market or stream your gameplay, you may need something a little quicker. 

Added to this, if you have a mobile broadband connection, it's important to check that you don't have any download limits. If you do, gaming online may cause you to use your allowance rather quickly. 

Broadband for gaming FAQs

What is 'ping rate'?

Your ping rate is a major factor that will affect your online gaming experience. Essentially, your ping rate is the time between you issuing a command and receiving a response. For example, you telling a player in EA Sports FC to shoot and them actually kicking the ball. 

Ping rates are usually very quick, so they're measured in milliseconds. But, the lower the ping rate you have, the better. This is because everything will happen much quicker. For example, if you're playing a combat game and you have your opponent in your crosshairs, you want the time between you pressing the trigger and the bullet being fired to be as low as possible. 

Similarly, if you have a high ping rate, your gameplay may not look realistic. For example, it may look to you like your opponent is standing still. However, if you're suffering from lag, then they may be moving to attack you before you've even realised. This can ruin your gaming experience. 

How do I lower my ping rate?

If you're gaming, you'll need a ping rate of 150 milliseconds (ms) or lower. For context, the lowest ping rates in the world are around 2ms. 

As you may expect, the best way to lower your ping rate is to upgrade to a faster and more reliable broadband connection. But, there are also other actions you can take. For example, you can also lower your ping rate by reducing the number of devices connected to your home network. If you're gaming on a PC or Mac, you should also close as many tabs and programs as possible, as this will mean there are fewer requests for data coming from apps and programs running in the background.

What broadband speed do I need for downloading games?

Video game files are usually enormous. In the past few years particularly, they've become much larger. Plus, as the technology and the graphics continue to improve, they'll only get larger still. As a result, they traditionally take a very long time to download. 

Video games with high-res graphics or those that play in 4K place the greatest demands on your home broadband, and a basic internet connection will be unable to cope. 

Let's look at a practical example: the latest Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare is almost 175 GB. This means that if you try to download this game using a 3Mbps ADSL connection, it will take 132.7 hours to download - that's five and a half days! And that's without interruptions and assuming you don't use your broadband for anything else. 

Of course, this is an extreme example. But it does accurately illustrate just how unsuitable some connections can be. If you're regularly looking to download games, you need a quick connection. Again, the quicker, the better. 

3d rendering internet speed concept on white background

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How much data does online gaming use?

Gaming online takes up a lot of data. Due to this, if you regularly game online, then you should make sure you choose a broadband package that comes with unlimited data (the good news is that the majority now do as standard). 

Generally speaking, most video game titles use somewhere between 40MB to 300MB per hour. Although this may seem a lot, it's actually less than if you stream content from Netflix. 

What is a good internet speed for gaming?

This depends on the type of gaming you enjoy. However, you can usually get away with a minimum of around 20Mbps if you usually play alone or in a multi-player lobby. But, a good internet speed for gaming that doesn't result in any lag will start at around 100Mbps.

What internet speed do pro gamers use?

Pro gamers will always use the quickest internet speeds they can get their hands on, as this also reduces their ping time. If you're looking to game competitively online, then you'll need average download speeds of at least 250Mbps. 

Best gaming broadband deals

Tom Brook

Tom is a freelance copywriter and content marketer with over a decade of experience. Originally from an agency background, he is proud to have worked on campaigns for a number of energy providers, comparison sites and consumer brands.