How Much Bandwidth do you need for Streaming and Gaming?

We have all experienced it – lag. Most of us experience it by seeing a spinning circle on your screen that tells you that your streaming video is frozen and that you must wait before it begins playing again. I’ve heard it called the “Circle of Death”, or the “Stupidity Circle”, and very few things in life can make you as frustrated or as angry as having your entertainment interrupted. Even when the video eventually resumes, I am often annoyed because I worry it will freeze again soon. 

Gamer’s experience lag when their game’s latency skyrockets or their game glitches or freezes. Gamers obviously get angry when this happens. Lag can absolutely play a role in losing the game, which is really frustrating especially for those gamers who are trying to play competitively.

A major cause of video lag is network contention – which happens when your internet connection is maxed out. When this happens, your broadband connection is receiving too much data and packets are getting lost and dropped. This means that your videos and games aren’t getting the data they need when they need it.

When it comes to your internet plan, here are some numbers you should keep in mind. Most people use the internet in a few different ways:

  • Gaming:  Games use very little traffic. Games send and receive a stream of tiny network packets. For games, it is the latency that is important. The packets need to be sent and received very quickly, without other traffic getting in the way. To put it in perspective, Games typically use 10 to 20 Kbps of traffic.
  • Streaming:   Streaming videos usually use a variable amount of traffic, depending how much bandwidth you have. If you have enough, the server will send you enough data for you to watch in 1080P or even 4K. If not, the server will send only enough data so that you can watch at lower resolutions… which often is not as enjoyable. To put some numbers on these:
    • 1080p videos typically require 4-6 Mbps to play smoothly.
    • 4K videos require up to 25 Mbps for optimal performance.
  • Browsing/Email:   In general, browsing and email don’t require a lot of bandwidth. It really depends on how many pictures are on the website or the size of the files being transferred via email.
  • Downloading:   Most people don’t think they download as much as they actually do.  Microsoft and other applications you use are constantly downloading updates, security patches, etc… These downloads often max out your internet capacity and cause lag for your game and videos to freeze.

As you can tell by these numbers, for most people 50 to 100 Mbps is more than enough bandwidth for the needs of the entire household. With a 100 Mbps connection, your family could easily watch three to four 4K videos at one time and still keep a game playing fast and smooth. Spending money for more than this is often expensive and unnecessary – frankly a waste of valuable cash unless you are a frequent downloader of large files.

Downloads and unexpected traffic can cause trouble though, but that is easily addressable… to learn more on how to address that go here.