A 100 or 200 Mbps Internet connection is usually more than enough to play online games comfortably since most multiplayer games require at most a 25 Mbps connection. However, the quality of your Internet connection also matters since unstable connections can cause lag, ping spikes, and packet loss.
How much Internet speed do you need?
If you go on Steam and check the system requires for the most popular online games today (such as Dota 2, Apex Legends, Counter-Strike 2, etc.), you’ll find that almost every game requires a broadband connection.
According to the FCC, broadband is defined as a connection that offers 25 Mbps download and 3 Mbps upload speeds.
This means that even a 100 Mbps Internet connection should be more than enough to provide a very comfortable gaming experience. Similarly, a 200 Mbps internet connection is eight times faster than the broadband connection most games require.
However, if you dig into the numbers a bit, you’ll find that online games use incredibly little data, and they can actually function very well even with slow Internet speeds.
League of Legends players have discovered that a single match requires around 20–60 megabytes of data, which means roughly 5–15 kilobytes per second, or roughly 0.005–0.015 Mbps.
Counter-Strike 2 uses a bit more data, ranging from 25 to 70 Kbps, or 0.025 to 0.070 Mbps per second.
Apex Legends requires 512 Kilobytes per second to properly function, according to an EA customer support representative.
At first glance, it seems counterintuitive that online games require so little data to work. By comparison, Netflix and YouTube require at least a 20 Mbps connection if you want to watch 4K videos without any interruption.
The reason for this is that when watching videos, your device has to essentially download every single frame so that it can be rendered on your screen.
With online multiplayer games, however, the game server only sends tiny text instructions to your device. The device’s CPU and GPU then transform these instructions into actual events that happen on your screen.
However, simple text files take up way less storage space than video and images, which explains why games run just fine even with slower Internet speeds.
Does a fast internet connection mean I will have less ping?
The answer is no; a fast Internet connection doesn’t mean you will have low ping. This is because ping doesn’t measure your Internet speed, but the time it takes for a data packet to travel from the server to your device and back to the server again. A device that is closer to the server will always have a lower ping than one that is far away.
To give you an example of how this works, take the game League of Legends.
League of Legends has its North American servers located in Chicago, Illinois. A LoL player in Chicago with a 50 Mbps internet connection will have a much lower ping than a player from Los Angeles with a 500 Mbps.
This is simply because the Chicago player is located right next to the servers, so the travel time between his device and the servers is incredibly short compared to the travel time between Los Angeles and Chicago.
Thus, the Chicago player will always have a lower ping than his Los Angeles counterpart, simply because they live right next to the server, even though the Los Angeles player has a faster Internet connection on paper.
Does a 100 or 200 Mbps connection mean I won’t have ping or lag spikes?
Unfortunately, a 100 or 200 Mbps internet connection doesn’t guarantee you’ll have a good gaming experience.
This is because, when it comes to online games, connection stability is more important than speed.
As mentioned previously, during an online game, the server sends text instructions to your device, which then transforms them into events on your screen.
These server instructions are sent in the form of continuous packet streams.
When you see an enemy character move around in an online shooter, what’s actually happening is that a stream of packets (let’s say 100) reach your device every second, and they tell your device to generate the movement of the character on your screen in one fluid motion.
However, an unstable Internet connection causes packet loss. During packet loss, your device doesn’t receive all of the instructions sent by the server.
Because of this, when an enemy character moves around, you won’t see it as a single fluid motion but rather as them teleporting from point A to point C, since your device didn’t receive the packets that said the character reached point B.
Connection stability doesn’t matter that much when it comes to video streaming and normal internet use.
Video streaming sites such as Netflix and YouTube generally download more of the video when the connection is stable and pause the download when it’s unstable.
Online games don’t work like that since everything that’s happening on screen is in real time, so the connection needs to be stable 100% of the time if you want a good experience.
Unfortunately, connection issues are a common problem in gaming, but it’s possible to overcome them.
How to have a stable Internet connection for gaming
There are lots of reasons why an Internet connection can be unstable and cause ping spikes, so we won’t go into each of them.
Instead, this section covers the basic things you should do to avoid having connection issues while gaming:
1)Test your connection for packet loss on PC
If you think your connection is unstable, you can check it for packet loss using the steps below:
- In the Windows search bar, type cmd. Right click and press “Run as Administrator”.
- In the command prompt, type ipconfig and press Enter.
- Look at the IP address next to Default Gateway. That is the IP address of your router.
- Type ping [IP address] -n 25 (in our case, ping 192.168.0.1 -n 25) The “-n 25” is how many packets you want to send to the router to test its speed. If you want to test more packets, just write “-n 50”.
- Look at the test measurements and see if there is any packet loss.
If you consistently experience packet loss over the course of days or weeks, then here are some things you can do:
2) Connect your device to the Internet via cable, not wireless
Gaming consoles such as the PS5 and Xbox Series X (and even some PCs) can connect to the Internet wirelessly.
Wireless internet is incredibly convenient, but also unstable and prone to fluctuations. Even the cheapest internet cable will usually provide a better, more stable connection than the most expensive Wi-Fi router.
Thus, for online games at least, you should always try to connect to the Internet via cable, even if it’s messier and uglier than wireless.
3) Troubleshoot your devices if you’re having issues
If your Internet connection is unstable, it might be because of faulty or weak hardware. Most of the time, the Internet router is to blame, so do some reading about your router and see how well it reviews.
Other common hardware causes include faulty motherboards or poor-quality Internet cables.
4) How many people and devices will connect to the Internet?
A 100 Mbps internet connection is more than enough for online gaming if it goes to just one device.
However, if you have a family, it’s possible that not even a 200 Mbps connection will be enough to ensure a stable gaming connection at all times.
For example, your connection will choke if someone in your household likes to download stuff over the Internet, while others watch YouTube, Twitch, or Netflix at 4K and the highest possible bitrate.
If you’re the tinkerer type, you can, of course, throttle the Internet speeds for users connected to the router so that they don’t eat up all the bandwidth. Here’s a quick guide that teaches you how to do that for TP-Link, Tenda, and D-Link routers.
5) Do you want to be a streamer?
If you want to be a Twitch or YouTube streamer, then you should take into account that streaming at higher resolutions and bitrates will take up somewhere around 20 Mbps.
Again, if you just live by yourself, 100 Mbps should be more than enough to accommodate both streaming and gaming simultaneously. However, if your household is composed of two people or more, then you should consider at least a 200 Mbps connection, and ideally, one with 500 Mbps.
Will you have data caps?
Data caps are another extremely important point you should consider.
For instance, Apex Legends consumes around 250 MB per hour, which translates to 25 GB per month if one plays 100 hours of Apex Legends.
While not an extraordinary amount, it’s still something worth taking into account if your Internet plan has a data cap.
If your Internet plan is unlimited, then ignore this point since it doesn’t really matter.
Overall, a 100 or 200 Mbps internet connection should be enough to comfortably play online games. However, if you live with someone else or an entire family, it’s best to go for at least 200–300 Mbps so that the network can’t be bogged down by a single user.
More importantly, however, it’s best to focus on having a stable connection rather than a fast one. So always try to stay on top of your hardware, just in case it might be faulty.
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