What is the best internet for gaming?

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So you recently got the hottest gaming console, or you’ve moved to a new place, and you’re wondering what the internet will be like for gaming. But before you jump into the cheapest broadband plan available, it can pay to do your research.

Gamers are a different breed, but still desire the same thing as every other user – a fast connection. However, it’s more than just a fast connection that can make or break a gaming experience. Read on for what to look out for if you’re a gamer, and for our picks on ideal internet plans for gaming.

Internet for gaming – which broadband plan do I need?

There are very few telcos out there specifically offering ‘gamer’ plans, so a good bet is to go with a renowned provider. Aside from asking your prospective neighbour how they feel their internet is, going with a bigger provider, or one that promises enough bandwidth for everyone, could be a good way to go.

MyRepublic is one of the only providers to offer plans specifically tailored to gaming. The ‘Gamer Pro’ plans come with a static IP address, and speeds on the top-tier of the NBN (NBN 100, or Premium Evening Speed).

Brand Features Max Data**/billing period Advertised Cost^^/billing period
MyRepublic Logo

Gamer Pro Essential

  • Standard Plus Evening Speed (NBN 50)
  • $1 upfront WiFi hub cost + $10 delivery fee

min. cost $970.88 over 12 months

UnlimitedMax Data**/billing period $79.99Advertised Data^^/billing period Go To Site
MyRepublic Logo

Gamer Pro Premium

  • Premium Evening Speed (NBN 100)
  • $1 upfront WiFi hub cost + $10 delivery fee

min. cost $1,150.88 over 12 months

UnlimitedMax Data**/billing period $94.99Advertised Data^^/billing period Go To Site
View all NBN plans listed on Canstar Blue

It’s tempting to simply find the cheapest plan and hope for the best, but if you’re serious about gaming – or just don’t like lag – there is a bit more homework you’ll need to do. Below are some of the factors that can affect your overall online gaming experience.

What to look for in a gaming internet plan

Minimum speeds to Maximize gameplayThere are quite a few things to look out for in an internet plan to help ensure it is suitable for gaming. Things that can impact your gaming experience include

  • Low latency or ‘ping’ times
  • Bandwidth
  • Typical evening speed 
  • The distance from your home to an exchange (if on an ADSL connection)
  • Your console’s speed requirements.

We’e broken down these factors in more detail below.

Low latency or ‘ping’ times

At the end of the day, the internet is basically sending packets of data from the end user to the server and back again. The thing is online gaming requires this to happen really fast – faster than your everyday internet user may need. In gaming this could be the difference between winning and losing! Things that affect ping time are:

  • Your distance to the server: Your home may be in Brisbane, but your internet provider may route traffic through Sydney, for example. This may result in a slower ping time, and it will take longer for your online gaming movements to register on-screen (i.e. lag).
  • Cheaper providers often route traffic through one city only – however many other providers can route traffic through most capital cities.
  • More users on the one connection can also dramatically worsen ping scores.

A better ping score is more important than broadband speed. Ping scores are highly variable, and as such are not as readily advertised by providers. Unfortunately, you can’t really know if you have a good or poor ping score before you sign up to an internet plan.

Bandwidth

The ‘6pm slowdown’ is real. Peak times – between 7pm and 11pm – can slow down speeds dramatically, as can having multiple devices connected to Wi-Fi. If your housemate started streaming Netflix while gaming and your experience went south, two people sharing the connection may be the culprit.

Buying the fastest plan you can afford, however, can ensure there’s enough bandwidth to go around for everyone. Bandwidth literally refers to having enough ‘pipe’ or space for your internet speed requirements. You may have a fast ping, but if there’s not enough bandwidth there’s not enough ‘pipe’ to send those packets of data.

Larger households, where multiple devices are often used at once, will likely need a faster NBN connection. Below are some top-tier NBN 100 plans that will ensure there’s enough bandwidth to go around. These are featured products, listed in monthly price order.

Brand Features Max Data**/billing period Advertised Cost^^/billing period
MyRepublic Logo

Unlimited Premium Promo plan

  • Premium Evening Speed (NBN 100)
  • Optional WiFi hub from $1 + $10 delivery fee
  • Special offer:  $84.95 per month for first 12 months, then $89.95 per month ongoing

min. cost $1030.40 over 12 months (includes WiFi hub)

UnlimitedMax Data**/billing period $84.95Advertised Data^^/billing period Go To Site
Vodafone Logo

Premium NBN (Month to month contract)

  • Premium Evening Speed (NBN 100)
  • $180 upfront modem reduced to $0 over 36 months
  • Special offer: Bonus Vodafone TV and Google Home Mini. Ends 01/04/19

min. cost $269 for first month

UnlimitedMax Data**/billing period $89Advertised Data^^/billing period Go To Site
Exetel

NBN Premium Unlimited

  • Premium Evening Speed (NBN 100)
  • $20 upfront
  • Free WiFi modem

min. cost $1099.88 over 12 months

UnlimitedMax Data**/billing period $89.99Advertised Data^^/billing period Go To Site
Belong Logo

NBN Premium

  • Premium Evening Speed (NBN 100)
  • Free WiFi modem
  • $80 mobile credit

min. cost $1,080 over 12 month plan period

UnlimitedMax Data**/billing period $90Advertised Data^^/billing period Go To Site
Start Logo

As Fast as it Gets

  • Premium Evening Speed (NBN 100)
  • Included WiFi modem

min. cost $1,835 over 24 months

UnlimitedMax Data**/billing period $95Advertised Data^^/billing period Go To Site

Power User

  • Premium Evening Speed (NBN 100)
  • Optional modem $149 ($15 P&H)

min. cost $99 over first month

UnlimitedMax Data**/billing period $99Advertised Data^^/billing period Go To Site
iiNet Logo

Ultimate

  • NBN Premium Evening Speed (NBN 100)
  • Fetch TV available for $59.99 upfront
  • WiFi modem included ($10 delivery fee)

min. cost $2,409.76 over 24 months

UnlimitedMax Data**/billing period $99.99Advertised Data^^/billing period Go To Site
Internode

NBN Platinum Unlimited

  • NBN Premium Evening Speed (NBN 100)
  • WiFi Modem included ($15 delivery may apply)

min. cost $2,399.76 over 24 months

UnlimitedMax Data**/billing period $99.99Advertised Data^^/billing period Go To Site
Telstra Logo

Unlimited with Speed Boost

  • Premium Evening Speed (NBN 100)
  • $216 modem (free when you stay connected for 24 months)
  • Special offer: $99 connection fee waived (online only)
  • Unlimited local, national & mobile calls included

min. cost $336 over first month

UnlimitedMax Data**/billing period $120Advertised Data^^/billing period Go To Site
View all NBN plans listed on Canstar Blue

Advertised speeds vs typical evening speeds

The fastest NBN download speed available to most Australians is 100Mbps. However, between the hours of 7pm and 11pm, speeds can slow dramatically. Speed is not as important as ping, but if you need to do some hefty game downloads, peak times may not be the ideal time to do so.

Peak slowdown has been so drastic that the ACCC has even stipulated that some internet providers must compensate customers for advertising speeds that were simply not achieved. In addition, the ACCC has recommended that providers now list ‘typical evening speeds’ for their various NBN plans: this refers to the speeds that you’ll probably experience in peak busy times, between the hours of 7pm and 11pm.

Typical evening speeds are a much better indicator of how fast your plan will actually be than simply ‘NBN 50’, ‘NBN 100’ etc., as these names only refer to the maximum speeds available on each tier in megabits per second. Your plan may be theoretically capable of 100Mbps speeds, but realistically you’re unlikely to experience those speeds yourself.

A plan’s typical evening speed is calculated by each individual provider, based on average speeds achieved by customers during peak hours. Below is a comparison of some of the top providers’ typical evening speeds on Premium (NBN 100) plans:

NBN Provider Typical Evening Speed for NBN 100
Aussie Broadband 90Mbps
MyRepublic 83Mbps
Vodafone 83Mbps
Exetel 83Mbps
Telstra 80Mbps
Belong 80Mbps
Optus 80Mbps
iiNet 78.5Mbps
Internode 72.7Mbps
TPG 71.4Mbps

Source: Respective retailers, February 2019.

While a lower evening speed should not necessarily scare you off, it could be a good indicator of how congested each provider gets during peak times.

Distance from the exchange

The Node in FTTN

This may more specifically apply to ADSL customers, but the distance from your internet exchange to your home may affect your end broadband speed. This is because of the cabling required to go to your home.

Distances within 1km of the exchange can achieve up to the full 24Mbps speed specification. However, there is a sharp drop-off with connections more than 3km away, and residences 5km away or more tend to achieve a maximum speed of just 2-3Mbps.

Luckily, many suburban internet exchanges are quite close together, and cast a net of less than 5km. While it’s hardly advisable to move house just to be closer to an exchange, it is something to research and consider when moving or buying a new home.

Your console’s speed requirements

The two major online gaming consoles, the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4, rate minimum requirements slightly differently.

  • Xbox One recommends a minimum download speed of 3Mbps and a maximum ping rate of 150ms for Xbox Live gaming.
  • While PlayStation does not specify any minimums, it is reported that the minimum speeds are 5Mbps and 100ms ping.

Both companies recommend connecting via Ethernet cable, as opposed to Wi-Fi. In any case, these speed minimums should be quite easily achievable, but the ping scores can be blown out of the water by shared bandwidth, peak times, using Wi-Fi, and so on. As mentioned earlier, a good ping score is more vital than a good download speed for playing online.

Steam is an online community for downloading games and share content, and regularly ranks Aussie ISPs. The top ranked for the week of March 19, 2019 can be found below:

  • Aussie Broadband: 35.5Mbps
  • MyRepublic: 28.3Mbps
  • Exetel: 23Mbps
  • Telstra: 20.1Mbps
  • Optus: 19.5Mbps
  • iiNet: 18.5Mbps
  • TPG Internet: 16.3Mbps
  • iPrimus: 15.4Mbps
  • Dodo: 8.8Mbps

Should I get an internet plan for gaming online?

More than speed matters

If you’re unhappy with your current online gaming situation and your internet provider, it may be time to think about switching. However, you need to do a bit of homework to make sure you’re just switching into another nightmare. There are a few points you’ll need to consider:

  • Cheapest isn’t always best – cheap plans often come with low data caps, slow NBN speed tiers, and only a few traffic routes (i.e. through an interstate city instead of your own).
  • Buying a fast enough plan for household needs can mean the difference between happiness and a headache.
  • Ping or latency is more important than outright download speeds.
  • Using an Ethernet connection instead of Wi-Fi can help improve speed and connection.

While it doesn’t seem like there’s much you can do about slow internet speeds, there are in fact a few steps you can take to make sure you’re getting what you need from your NBN or ADSL connection.

While simply changing providers won’t change everything, it could mean the difference between killing that guy on Call of Duty, or missing him completely.

Compare NBN Providers

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