If you’re one of the millions of Australians that regularly plays video games, you’ll already know that no matter what the type of game or the platform you’re playing it on, your broadband connection can make a massive difference to how good a time you have.
In a distant past, you’d pick up the latest games on DVD or Blu-ray at a store, and the game would play directly from that disc. Sure, maybe you’d have to download the occasional patch to add new features or fix bugs, but you didn’t need to. You could quite comfortably game away without an internet connection and never be any worse off.
Of course, if you wanted to play online – whether it be a solid session of Call of Duty or hours spent exploring the virtual world of an MMO like Final Fantasy XIV – you quickly would have started to spot the limitations of your broadband connection, especially if you were on a slow ADSL service. With many console games depending on direct connections between players, the quality of your connection could become a real issue.
We’re in a better place these days, thanks to the NBN – which, despite occasional negative press, has generally improved broadband connections for those with access to it. It’s also enabled access to truly fast broadband download and upload speeds for the first time, opening up even more possibilities for gamers.
For example, streaming your gameplay to an audience on popular sites like Twitch and YouTube is now a very real possibility for a huge amount of people – as long as the upload speed of the connection is fast enough. The NBN gives you some real choice when it comes to that, as well as vastly increasing download speeds, essential in this era of gaming where the size of games is measured in tens of gigabytes, and hefty required updates are commonplace. There’s going to be a lot of data coming down and, if you press that “Share” button to stream your gameplay to the world, there’s going to be a lot of data going the other way as well.
As a gamer, then, you will want to pay special attention to the broadband provider you go with and the plan you choose. Depending on the NBN technology in your area, you may have many options or just a few, but the most important thing is simple: don’t skimp on your broadband to save money unless you really have to. Of all the things you can do online – yes, even streaming 4K video – gaming is likely to be the thing that benefits the most from the best broadband connection you can afford, no matter whether you’re using consoles like the PS4, Xbox and Switch, or leveraging the raw power of your desktop or laptop PC to take things a step further.
Luckily, a high-quality broadband connection that’s perfect for gaming doesn’t have to be as expensive as you’d think. Yes, you’ll have to expect to spend more than 30 bucks a month on it if you want to avoid frustration down the track but trust us – once you’ve gotten a taste of properly fast broadband, you won’t ever want to go back!
There are a few things you should be looking at when it comes to any broadband internet plans for gaming:
This is important. Really important. The sheer data size of modern video games cannot be understated, with many popular games pushing their way towards 100 GB in size (or even exceeding it). If you buy your games on disc, that’ll ease some pain when first installing them, but there’s likely to be frequent hefty updates on the way. And if you opted to buy the game on a digital storefront like the PS4 and Microsoft stores or on Steam, you’re going to be downloading the entire thing. Even the most generous-sounding data limit can be crushed within days if it’s a busy game download week, so you want a plan that gives you unlimited downloads. Fortunately, they’re increasingly common!
High Download and Upload Speed
The NBN is set up in several “speed tiers” which, as you’d expect, cost more the faster you go. If you’re going to be downloading and playing games, you want the fastest possible speed. Games take less time to download and install, updates are faster and, if you’re streaming video of your gameplay, the faster the upload speed the better your streams will look to everyone watching. A good balance of price and speed is usually the 50/20 tier (50 Mbps down, 20 Mbps up) which almost all providers offer. Depending on your NBN connection, though, you can go even faster, up to 100/40 and beyond.
It’s hard to get an idea of the quality of a provider’s network until you try it for yourself, but it can be a crucial thing for gaming, especially if you’re going to be playing with or against people from interstate and overseas. Ideally, your broadband provider of choice will also have the most direct possible connections to the data centres where many gaming servers are hosted.
Optimising Performance – Wi-Fi vs Wired
It’s a wireless world these days, and most of us make good use of Wi-Fi at home on our phones, tablets and laptops. And it’s a brilliant thing, being able to connect to high-speed broadband no matter where you are in your home. But when it comes to gaming, it’s worth thinking about using a wired connection – known as an Ethernet connection – instead.
For many people it can seem an annoyance to have to run a cable between the modem/router and the PC or game console that you’re going to be doing multiplayer gaming on. After all, the internet works perfectly for you over Wi-Fi, right? Well, yes – but it’s when you venture into online multiplayer gaming that a wired Ethernet connection comes into its own. Ethernet is a very clever invention – it’s able to carry data at high speed across very long cable lengths, and the cable itself is cheap as chips. What you get in return are a few advantages that are key to online gaming.
A Wi-Fi connection suffers from a sometimes substantial delay between your PC or console sending data out and the data getting to its destination. Wired connections all but eliminate that delay, and that’s vital if you’re playing games where every millisecond counts. A wired connection is also completely immune to congestion – all the wireless “noise” from other peoples’ modems and devices that your connection has to deal with can seriously slow things down.
If you have multiple game consoles or computers to hook up via Ethernet, you can pick up an inexpensive device called an Ethernet Switch – this lets you run a single cable from your modem, and plug seven or more devices in at the other end, all getting the advantage of a fast, reliable wired connection.
Game Consoles and Broadband
One thing you may have noticed, if you’ve spent time with game consoles, is info in settings related to something called a “NAT”. Without getting into the technical nitty-gritty of it, the “type” of NAT that your console sees on your connection can have a huge impact on the pool of players you can play with, and how reliable your connection is.
There’s a few things that influence the “NAT type” result – and in many cases it’s your own modem/router that’s to blame. Game consoles will attempt to open direct connections to servers, and some modem/routers block such connections. Look for a setting on the modem named “UPnP” and if it’s off, switch it on.
Your broadband provider can sometimes help with this issue as well, so if you’re getting frustrated by that NAT type not budging from “strict”, give them a call and ask if they can help out, either with a newer modem or by changing some settings on their end.
You might be surprised to learn that most online multiplayer games use very little data at all, regardless of how complex the action is. You can be in the middle of a 30-player raid in World of Warcraft yet the data that’s sent and received is so small you could use your mobile phone as the modem and not worry about going over your limit. The reason for that’s simple – all that’s being sent is a stream of raw numbers letting each end know what’s going on in the game, but all the big data – the player models, the environments, the music and sound effects – is all stored on your PC or console.
However, we’d still recommend an unlimited-data plan for just about anyone who regularly buys and plays games. Regardless of whether it’s The Sims or Dark Souls, download sizes for most games and their updates is where you’re going to feel the pain.
Seven of the Best
With all this in mind, we’ve picked seven major Australian broadband providers that offer fast, reliable NBN broadband bundles that are particularly good for gamers. We’ve aimed for a good balance between cost and performance, and in all cases the plans offer unlimited downloads and uploads. Many of these bundles and plans are available without a lock-in contract, too – but going for a contract does often have its advantages and often, some nice freebies!
Aussie Broadband – Power User
A firm favourite with tech-savvy internet users as well as gamers, Aussie Broadband is that rarest of things – a 100% Australian company that’s entirely based here. Their network is of a remarkably high quality and their support team is on the ball when it comes to fixing any issues, and they offer some technical advantages for gamers most providers don’t (such as IPv6 connectivity, very desirable for Xbox One users).
Aussie’s Power User bundle lives up to its name by giving gamers raw download and upload speed – 100/40 with a typical evening speed of a whopping 90 Mbps – no peak slowdown here! With unlimited data and a high quality Netcomm modem/router included on a 24-month contract, it’s $99 per month. If you don’t feel you need that much speed, you can go for the 50/20 play for $79 – but if you can get the faster speed at your place, we reckon it’s worth the extra five bucks a week!
Southern Phone NBN Turbo
Similarly fast is Southern Phone’s top NBN plan, but for sheer value the sweet spot at 50/20 (with a typical evening speed quoted at 46 Mbps) is their NBN Turbo offering, which gives you a rock-solid connection with unlimited data and no hassles for a mere $70 per month.
Telstra Unlimited Bundle
With their blazingly fast and well-connected global network and decades of experience in providing high quality broadband to consumers, Telstra’s Unlimited bundle at $89 per month hooks you up with one of the fastest networks in Australia and includes the latest Telstra Smart Modem to connect you to it. The modem features automatic 4G backup on Telstra’s fast network – so if your broadband connection has an outage, you can game on regardless! This bundle also gives you access to Telstra Air hotspots around Australia.
Mate Communicate – “soul mates”
Mate Communicate offers affordable, flexible, and no-fuss plans that are suitable for every user. For gamers who want reliable and uninterrupted speed, we highly recommend that you take on Mate’s “soul mates” plan that gives you unlimited data on the NBN100 speed tier. This plan amounts to only less than a hundred bucks per month and does not come with any lock-in contracts or setup fees whatsoever. These flexible terms mean that you can easily change up your plan depending on your usage needs.
Another underrated but very dependable provider is Sumo, which offers rather affordable plans compared to the standard in the market. If you’re on a budget but need a high performing plan, then better get the Sumo Premium Speed plan that gives you unlimited data on the NBN100 speed tier. Currently, Sumo is also offering all their plans with a 20% discount per month for the first 6 months, so it’s really the best time to grab this premium plan for your gaming needs.
Internode NBN Platinum
The provider that’s been looking after gamers longer than just about anyone, Internode offers a $99.99 premium-speed service at 100/40 Mbps with unlimited everything – and the option of including a Fetch TV Mighty box for an extra $10 per month, great for taking a break between gaming sessions.
Unique in the industry, MyRepublic offers a separate tier of service for gamers, with their GamerPro bundles promising special custom routing for games to deliver the best possible performance, a static IP address (extremely desirable for those looking to move into serious streaming and content creation) and a wi-fi hub. With unlimited data and unlimited phone calls, these bundles are priced at $79.99 and $94.99 for 50/20 and 100/40 respectively.
As you can see, there’s a fairly wide range of pricing across different providers, with the general rule that 100/40 speed plans are almost always at the top of the price chain – but with 50/20 plans often surprisingly discounted. Trust us, you don’t want to be going for anything less than 50/20, especially if there’s more than one of you using the connection.
Thanks to the NBN, there’s plenty of quality providers to choose from – happy hunting!