Comparing Internet Speeds for Gaming

Upload speed and latency, also known as "ping time," are the two most important factors in Internet speeds for gaming. Either a slow upload speed or a high ping time causes the player's game response to lag. The slow upload speeds of dial-up Internet access and the excessive ping time of satellite Internet do not work well for competitive gaming.

Online games that require players to compete against each other need Internet speeds of at least 0.5 megabits per second, or "Mbps." Ping time, the delay from the time a player makes a move until the signal reaches the server and returns, is measured in milliseconds, or "ms." Look for Internet services with ping times that average less than 120 ms. Lower numbers are better.

Another factor in choosing Internet service for gaming is dependability. One needs to know whether the upload and download speeds quoted by the company are accurate. Other considerations are the quality of the provider's servers and other equipment, what fluctuations in upload and download speeds are normal, and whether the service is subject to interference from weather or other causes.

Types of Internet Access for Gamers

DSL, cable and fiber optics provide Internet access for gamers. Because cable modem access services usually are shared among subscribers, speeds slow down during times of peak use. A digital subscriber line, or "DSL," provides high-speed Internet access using a regular phone line that connects to a broadband modem. Because a typical phone line is not shared, DSL speeds do not fluctuate during times of peak use. Faulty electrical connections, old wiring and interference from devices such as cordless phones, microwaves and shortwave radios, however, sometimes lessen the dependability of DSL. Bad weather affects both DSL and cable services.

Fiber-optic Internet access does not experience interference from the weather or electronic devices. Signals do not degrade as rapidly as those traveling through copper wires. Fiber-optic cable, usually made of thin strands of coated glass, carries digital signals very effectively. Instead of electricity, light passes through the fibers to transmit signals. International players who both have fiber-optic cable and whose systems connect to the transatlantic fiber-optic cable system enjoy smooth game playing with clear transmission and rapid response.

DSL usually is the least expensive option for Internet gaming. The connection is faster for receiving data than it is for sending data, and it works better when the user is in close proximity to the provider. The signal gets weaker when distances increase between the customer's system and the location of the DSL central office. There are several types of DSL providers available. Maximum upload speeds range from 800 kilobits per second, or "Kbps," for ADSL to 16 Mbps for VDSL.

Although fiber-optic plans usually cost more than either DSL or cable, they provide the fastest speeds available. Certain fiber-optic plans outperform all competitors with regard to upload and download speeds. Verizon's new FiOS Quantum technology provides customers the opportunity to experience upload speeds reaching 25 Mbps. Regular copper cable's top upload speed isapproximately 20 Mbps. There is no one best choice for all gamers. Not all services are available in all areas. Costs vary, and some plans limit the amount of monthly usage. Gaming habits, budget and availability of Internet services determine what is best for each individual.