What do gamers need from an NBN plan?

Playing Nintendo Switch video games

Whether you’re playing games online with friends, downloading the newest releases or simply updating your console or PC, gamers have a range of specific needs from their internet plan.

Download speed, upload speed and data caps all need to be considered when deciding on the right broadband plan for your gaming needs. Even which modem-router you use can have an impact on your gameplay experience.

You may want to consider a range of internet providers and plans before settling on what’s right for you, depending on your location and what you want to get out of your broadband. In this article, we’ll cover what you need to know to find the right gaming-ready internet plan for you.

Download speeds for gamers

The download speed of your broadband plan is responsible for bringing data into your home. For gamers, this typically means downloading games or updates, and keeping information coming into your console during online gaming.

Sources vary on just what download speeds you need for online gaming, but the general recommendation of most game developers is 3 megabits per second (Mbps) minimum. This means your console or gaming PC will require 3Mbps of dedicated internet bandwidth to ensure smooth operation. That might not sound like much, but with today’s multi-device households, there are often many devices simultaneously connected to (and competing for bandwidth on) your internet connection.

3Mbps is also considered the bare minimum to get you up and running, so to ensure a stable connection and fast downloads of games and updates, most gamers will want to consider much higher speeds than this.

While the ‘ideal’ download speed for gaming fluctuates between sources, speeds between 10Mbps-25Mbps are a common suggestion. If you ever find your connection lacking, you might want to check what other devices are using your internet and taking up bandwidth.

If you’re into streaming games instead of downloading them before playing, 10Mbps-15Mbps tends to be the recommended minimum speed for a stable connection.

Remember, the download speed of your plan will be spread across your connected devices. For example, if you have an NBN 50 plan, that 50Mbps is being used across all of your connected devices. If you’re gaming while someone else in the same home is streaming videos, you’ll see your connection split between both and neither device will be able to access the full 50Mbps. Even if there isn’t anyone else using another device while you’re gaming, things such as updates can occur in the background and use up bandwidth.

It’s also worth remembering that most plans are advertised with their absolute maximum speeds, and not necessarily the speed you would see in the busiest part of the day (7pm-11pm). The plan details will include the typical evening speed, so be sure to find that information if your regular gaming hours fall in the peak period.

If you’re tech-savvy, some routers can be configured to prioritise gaming traffic, ensuring your games and gaming devices are always first in line for bandwidth. A few routers on the market even come pre-configured for gamers, but often at a higher cost.

Upload speeds for gamers

This is another area that will fluctuate depending on who you ask. Most console developers will recommend a minimum 0.5Mbps upload speed to get you online, while 1Mbps seems to be agreed upon as a good starting point.

Upload speeds can be a little harder to find from internet providers as download speeds are usually how they advertise their plans. Upload speeds are required only for information going outbound from your devices, so providers offer much slower upload speeds in comparison to the download speeds of a plan.

NBN 12 plans, for instance, feature a 1Mbps upload speed. Even an NBN 1000 top-tier plan is capped at 50Mbps in terms of upload speed, as it's the maximum the NBN network is capable of achieving for households. You will find the information in the plan details somewhere, it just might take a little bit more reading than locating the download speed.

An upload speed of 5Mbps or higher is generally considered a fairly good speed for an internet plan, and that’s enough to handle most of your gaming needs. You’ll usually find upload speeds of 5Mbps on NBN 25 plans or higher, so gamers may want to consider a jump up from the NBN 12 tier if online gaming is a big consideration.

An NBN 12 plan would typically see upload speeds cap out at about 1Mbps, so you may be able to get the minimum requirements covered for your gaming, but stability could potentially be a bit of a worry.

Data caps for gamers: do I need unlimited?

You could be forgiven for thinking that downloading a game is the only way to use a large amount of data. But with updates and online gaming this isn’t the case.

If you’re into mainstream games, you’d already be aware how large the file types can be. Downloading some popular games can easily use up 50GBs of your data plan each, which you would need to factor into your data usage.

Some providers offer plans with lower data caps that can save you money so long as you don’t use excess. 100GB is a fairly common data cap, for example, which would mean you would be very limited for the rest of the month with one or two game downloads.

500GB is another common tier that could offer a bit more freedom, but keep in mind that those data caps encompass all of your internet usage and not just your gaming.

An unlimited data plan could offer the most freedom if you can afford it, but it may not be necessary depending on your internet usage habits. Try to get an idea of how much data you typically use in a month before committing to a plan, and try to give yourself a bit of a safety net if possible. Also enquire about what excess data usage chargers your provider may include, if you happen to use more data than your plan allows.

Latency, ping and lag

Latency is the term used to describe the sending of a ‘packet’ of data sent from your device to the server it’s connecting to, and receiving that ‘packet’ back. Ping is the measurement of the one way journey of these ‘packets’ (ignoring the return time), while lag is a delay, disruption or decreased speed issue that impacts the fluidity of your gaming experience. Lag can be caused by latency or ping issues, but this isn’t always the case as software and hardware issues are also frequent causes.

How about the network?

While your download or upload speed can cause issues with lag, latency and ping, the quality of the network can also have an impact. Having inadequate bandwidth allocation can also slow down your gaming, while any firewall issues can also impact any online games. Server locations and distance are also a big factor, so playing online games with users all around the globe may be slower than playing on a local server, depending on the distance you are from the servers you’re connecting to.

Basically, there are a whole range of factors that can cause lag or issues with latency and ping. As long as you choose an appropriate internet plan with a reputable provider, you have the best chance of avoiding these issues as you can. That doesn’t mean you will necessarily have any fewer issues on an ultra-fast plan than a standard NBN plan, or notice significant differences between providers.

Finding the internet plan that suits you and your needs can be complicated, but it’s achievable. First, get an understanding of what you need for your gaming, then you’ll be able to search for providers offering plans that match up.

For more on internet plans, head over to our broadband hub. To compare popular providers, use our handy comparison tool below.