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4G for gaming - Reduced latency, improved speeds and more

28th March 2018

4G Gaming

The improved browsing speeds and rapid downloading of 4G are well documented. However, one thing we feel is underplayed are the benefits which superfast 4G networks bring to those who enjoy playing their favourite games online.

We’re talking about those who love nothing more than taking down a foe from the other side of country (or world) with an AK47 in Call of Duty, or demolishing a Zergling army in Starcraft. In such a competitive environment a good internet connection can often be the difference between life and death.

Unfortunately, not everyone is lucky enough to have access to a home broadband connection, so their only option is a mobile broadband connection. That’s always been an underwhelming experience via 3G, but since 4G landed online gaming on mobile networks has come into its own.

4G networks deliver lower pings than 3G networks resulting in an improved online environment, while its increased bandwidth and download speeds are also advantageous to gamers. Read on for full details of why 4G is so beneficial to gamers.

Lower latency (or ping)

Mobile Networks Latency

Network Type

Average Latency or Ping (milliseconds)

3G

135

4G

75

4G LTE-Advanced

45

The most important thing in an online environment, particularly in fast-paced shooter and strategy games, is a decent ping. Ping (or latency) is the time it takes for a request to be sent to the game server and back again, so the lower the figure the more responsive things will feel and the easier it’ll be to “own that annoying scrub”.

Previous 3G connections delivered pings that averaged around the 120-150 milliseconds mark, while on early 4G networks that was reduced to around 70-80ms, and now we’re seeing latency as low as around 45ms on the more advanced 4G networks of 2018.

Given that we’re talking milliseconds that might not seem like much on paper, but hardened gamers will know that once pings go above 100 it can affect your ability to compete in fast-paced games. On 4G LTE your shots will register significantly faster, meaning you’ll have a much better chance of registering that round-winning headshot.

Rapid downloads and uploads

Mobile Networks Speeds

Network Type

Average Download Speeds (Mbps)

Average Upload Speeds 

3G

6

3

4G

20

8

4G LTE-Advanced

40

20

Are you left itching to play while the latest updates for your favourite game download at a snail’s pace?

Then you’re probably stuck on 3G, as a basic 4G network is around five times faster than a standard 3G network and new advances mean 4G can be even faster still, meaning you spend more time in game and less time staring at menus.

You should see average download speeds hovering around 20Mbps on most 4G networks, and on EE they’re around 29Mbps according to reports from OpenSignal and Speedtest.

EE’s above average speeds are driven in part by its double speed 4G network (which is exactly what the name suggests, and offers download speeds of up to 60Mbps), and by its 4G+ service, which is faster still with download speeds of up to 90Mbps.

That’s up to 25 times faster than 3G and is a technology that’s also known as LTE-Advanced. Vodafone uses the same tech, albeit in a smaller number of locations, and even on Three and O2 you should get speeds that are high enough for competitive online gaming.

Uploading is important too though - sharing your latest video clips on YouTube is a huge growth area - with Sony’s PS4 even coming with a dedicated share button on its controller.

Uploading is slower than downloading, so the wait can be longer - but fear not because 4G offers upload speeds up to 20 times faster than 3G. Speedtest reports average 4G upload speeds of roughly 7-9Mbps depending on what network you use.

Data use when gaming

4G is a game-changer literally for online gaming, but one thing it doesn’t fix is data use. In fact, mobile games are now likely to use more data than before, since they can rely on 4G to download it quickly.

So how much data are we talking? That depends on the game and the device, but the good news is that for mobile games it’s not generally too bad. Whistleout reports that online gaming on mobile uses upwards of 3MB per hour, which is a tiny amount.

Even the PC MMO World of Warcraft can use as little at 10MB per hour (though in certain circumstances it can also use upwards of 40MB per hour).

Some games aren’t so light on your data though. Many online PC games can use upwards of 100MB per hour. Exact usage is generally hard to pin down, but forums are full of players claiming that data usage can hit numbers as high as 1GB per hour in extreme cases.

That’s for PC and console gaming though, which is only an issue if you’re using 4G to get something other than a phone or tablet online. For mobile games, you should generally be fine if you have a data allowance of 4GB or more, but if you plan to tether or use a MiFi device (explained below) for your online gaming, you might want the biggest data allowance offered by your network.

Share one connection with multiple devices with Mobile WiFi

With the latest breed of 4G routers (or Mobile WiFi devices) you can share a single 4G connection with multiple devices at once.

One example is the Huawei E5573bs-322 Mobile WiFi which can share a single 4G connection with up to 5 devices. It does so by creating your own personal WiFi network meaning you can connect any devices with WiFi, such as the PlayStation 4, Xbox One or desktop PC.

Setting everything up couldn't be easier and it’s self-powered with up to 4 hours of battery life from a single charge. The compact device is great for gaming on-the-move and the perfect companion for a Playstation Vita.

The best dongle for gamers

As well as larger mobile broadband devices you can also get compact dongles – these plug into the USB port of a compatible device and get them online.

They’re small enough that you can throw one in your pocket, so you’re always prepared for an online game, and they’re often cheaper than a battery-powered MiFi device too, since they don’t need a battery of their own (instead drawing power from the device they’re connected to) and they only get one device online at once, but one is probably all you’ll need for gaming.

There are a few to choose from, but the Huawei E3372 is one of the best for gamers, offering 4G download speeds (some are limited to 3G) of up to 150Mbps.

That’s more than any network is currently likely to deliver in the real world, so it’s plenty, as well as being slightly future-proofed.

You also get upload speeds of up to 50Mbps, which again is well above the average any network is likely to deliver in practice right now.

It’s also compact and offers plug and play connectivity, so there’s no complicated setup to go through. The only real downside of this dongle (and this applies to all dongles) is that the device you’re connecting it to needs a USB port, but that covers most consoles and computers.

4G is definitely one for online gamers

Online gamers who can’t get a home broadband connection, or who love gaming on the move, should consider getting themselves a 4G dongle, or Mobile WiFi device. They deliver lower pings, faster downloads and quicker uploads than 3G networks resulting in a much-improved experience overall.

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