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 a friend 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 plans for gamers
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). You also have the option for adding on the Gamer Pro Add On to one of the NBN 50 plans (both the BYO modem and 12-month contract plans), for an additional $10 per month. While NBN 100 will give you access to faster internet speeds, the NBN Co website does state that NBN 50 is an adequate speed for online gaming.
The following table shows a selection of published unlimited MyRepublic plans on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of monthly cost, from the lowest to highest. Use our comparison tool to see plans from a range of other providers. This is a selection of products with links to a referral partner.
Aussie Broadband plans for gamers
What to look for in a gaming internet plan
There 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
- 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.
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.
The following table shows a selection of published unlimited Premium Evening Speed (NBN 100) plans on Canstar Blue’s database, listed in order of monthly cost, from the lowest to highest, and then by alphabetical order of provider. Use our comparison tool to see plans from a range of other providers. This is a selection of products with links to a referral partner.
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|
Source: Respective retailers, October 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
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 14 October, 2019 can be found below:
- Aussie Broadband: 37.3Mbps
- MyRepublic: 34.8Mbps
- Exetel: 28.4Mbps
- Vodafone: 26.3Mbps
- Telstra: 25.1Mbps
- Optus: 24.5Mbps
- iiNet: 22.5Mbps
- TPG Internet: 22.4Mbps
- iPrimus: 17.7Mbps
- Dodo: 16.7Mbps
Should I get an internet plan for gaming online?
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.