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The Ultimate Guide to Gaming Bandwidth

Have you ever been in the middle of a game, riding a hot streak, with ten people shouting at you through your headset, and all of a sudden your screen freezes? 

It’s infuriating.

Glitches happen, but your internet bandwidth could also be an unnecessary roadblock. Before your next game lag, it might be helpful to brush up on bandwidth requirements for the gaming systems you play, and how you can cross speed off of your list of potential problems.

Optimum has you covered. Here’s everything you need to know about what speed you need to crush the competition.

 

A happy African American couple sits on their living room couch, both holding a controller and smiling while playing a video game

 

What is bandwidth and how does it affect my gaming?

While spending so much time at home you might know that your Zoom meeting requires 2Mbps for a single screen meeting, but bandwidth can also affect your gaming more than you think. 

Bandwidth is the minimum or maximum amount of data that can be transmitted through the internet over any given time, and bandwidth is measured in Mbps or megabits per second. 

Internet speeds listed by a provider represent the total usage for an entire household network and can vary according to several factors, some of which are not even within your control. Much as the water pressure can drop in the shower while somebody in your house flushes the toilet, internet connection speeds can plunge if your household or neighborhood is taxing the bandwidth of your local network. This can be caused by using multiple devices at once, or by downloading, uploading, or streaming large files.

To figure out which devices or internet activities may be causing lag in your house, run internet speed tests with various devices on and off. Your gaming console might not be the culprit.

According to the Federal Communications Commission, gaming consoles that require an internet connection, like Fortnite, usually need a bandwidth of 3Mbps. And online multiplayer games, like Call of Duty, need a bandwidth of 4Mbps. 

The FCC may be a little behind the times, however, as games are evolving rapidly to accommodate online play.

On average, the best gaming sessions require about 3Mbps of bandwidth speed, but this also depends on the number of players in each session. Make sure you’re prepared for whatever firefight comes your way without having lags get you down.

 

Gaming consoles

Especially while everyone is hanging out closer to home, you want to make sure your bandwidth is compatible with not only your Zoom meetings but for your gaming consoles too. You can’t let your Animal Crossing island go dormant while you wait for your internet to catch up. 

  1. Gaming on a PC or a Mac requires a minimum speed of 3-6Mbps to download and 0.7-1Mbps to upload. But your household speed should be around 40-60Mbps to fully accommodate.
  2. Nintendo Switch requires a minimum speed of 3Mbps to download and 1Mbps to upload. Your household speed should be 40Mbps.
  3. The Nintendo Wii U requires a minimum speed of 3Mbps to download and 1Mbps to upload. Your household speed should be 25Mbps.
  4. The Xbox Series X, due out this November, is quoting about 10Mbps of bandwidth as their preferred speed. 
  5. The highly anticipated Playstation 5 is estimating a household speed should be 25Mbps.

It should be noted that the above-referenced internet speed thresholds are on a moment-to-moment basis, and represent bandwidth dedicated to your gaming console of choice rather than the entire household. Lag could just as easily be caused by a house-mate streaming live HD sports in the next room.

 

Happy young man is playing a videogame in a 3D virtual reality simulator using a VR headset

 

Increasing your bandwidth

At this point, you may be thinking, ‘Okay, I know the basic bandwidth requirements for my console, but how do I stop lags from happening?’ 

Slow bandwidth often occurs when you have a large amount of data passing through your internet for long periods. But don't worry, Optimum has some tips and tricks that will increase your bandwidth and get you back to playing in no time.

  1. Hard-wire your console’s connection -  While not always possible, a hard-wired connection to your household’s router through an ethernet connection is the most reliable way to ensure you’re getting as much of your household bandwidth as possible. While a wifi connection is convenient, the speeds it offers fluctuate more than a cabled connection. In essence, an ethernet connection puts your gaming console “first in line” for precious bandwidth. 
  2. Move closer to your router -  As simple as it sounds, devices connected through wifi capture higher bandwidths closer to the router than they do farther away. So it might be an easy fix to move your router out from behind a couch or set up your gaming system next to your router. 
  3. Amplify your signal -  If moving closer to your wireless router is too big of a challenge, you can boost your home network’s wifi signal near your gaming console by installing an amplifier. Just make sure it’s compatible with your router and internet service provider network before purchase.
  4. Try “Airplane Mode” - You might be experiencing lags in your gaming because there are a lot of devices on the network. Try switching your phones and tablets to “Airplane Mode” just go get that extra bandwidth.
  5. Turn off updates and background data - Consider changing the notification, auto-update, and background data settings on connected laptops and phones. A good deal of bandwidth can be used up by applications you’re not actively using. Just don’t forget to turn these updates back on eventually.
  6. Update your router - Still holding onto that old router? If your router is 5 years old or more, it might be time for a new one. Newer routers are better designed to accommodate gaming speeds, so if you’re a gamer the router upgrade can be worth it.
  7. Upgrade your connection speed - If you’ve tried all the troubleshooting tricks you can think of and still can’t avoid lags, it might be time to increase the overall bandwidth of your home network by upgrading to a higher-speed connection package from your internet service provider.

 

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