The number of internet service providers (ISP) options can seem staggering. With technological advancements over the past decade, home internet has become blazing fast, with speeds reaching as high as 3000Mbps in some cases. This speed is great for everyday use, but you’ll need to consider other factors when deciding on the best ISP for gaming for you.
Companies such as Cox, Spectrum, Comcast Xfinity, and AT&T offer packages with incredible speeds, high bandwidth, and reliable internet service. What exactly do these providers offer, and how do they compare in terms of cost and other factors? Answers to these questions can help you choose the ISP to get the most out of your gaming experience.
The big players
The following are some of the biggest players in the high-speed internet market, with services that may meet your gaming needs.
Cox is one of the biggest names in the telecommunication industry. The company offers reasonably priced high-speed internet, including a 150Mbps plan available for $59.99 the first year. If you want even faster speeds, you can bump to the 500Mbps plan for $79.99.
However, what makes Cox one of the top ISPs for gaming is the unique Elite Gamer service that you can get as an add-on to any Cox plan. This service helps find the fastest path to the game server with intelligent routing technology. In doing so, Cox can reduce latency and jitter, two factors that affect your gameplay.
AT&T is mostly for its cellular phone service, but it is also one of the country’s largest home cable and internet providers, offering excellent speeds and some of the best prices available. If you live in a location where AT&T’s fiber internet plans are available, you’ll see some of the best value possible for high-speed internet with their Gigabit plan (AT&T 1000) at $60 the first year and $80 after.
Spectrum is a strong competitor, offering cable internet service, which means it’s often available in locations that don’t have fiber. The company’s gigabit option comes in at $110/month for the first year, then $135/month after. If that price seems a bit high for your budget, you can step down to the still super fast speed of 400Mbps, which costs $70/month during year one, then $95/month after.
Comcast Xfinity is one of the most recognizable names in the industry, and its Xfinity internet service offer high-quality service at mid-tier pricing. For example, their gigabit plan with 1200Mbps download speeds is offered at $80/month for the first year, then $100/month afterward.
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When determining the best ISP for gaming, it’s helpful to understand what’s most important to you. Is it fast speeds? A great deal? Low latency and jitter? It’s important to know which ISP comes out on top in these three areas.
High-speed throughput isn’t the most crucial factor for online gaming, but for the best experience, shoot for a baseline of 100Mbps at a minimum. Most of the work happens on the game console or computer itself and not through the network. However, high speeds are still necessary, as we have mostly moved away from physical game media and instead download games digitally. Nobody wants to wait hours for a game to download.
Among those ISPs mentioned, the fastest speeds are available from Xfinity with their Gigabit Pro plan, which can go up to a blazing 3000Mbps. This plan provides not only 3000Mbps download speed but also 3000Mbps upload speed.
If you’re looking for good performance at a reasonable price, nothing beats AT&T’s fiber plans. A $60/month promotional price for gigabit internet is a tremendous value. You need to assess how much importance you place on speed and balance against how much price matters. If you’re looking for something right in the middle, AT&T fiber may just fit the bill.*
Low latency and jitter
Latency and jitter are the most critical factors for the player experience regarding online gaming. Latency is simply the delay for a packet of data to move from one point to another on the network. Jitter is a measure of the consistency in the connection’s latency. In a nutshell, this means jitter essentially helps measure the consistency of the connection.
To test the speed and latency of your internet connection, you can use the tool at Measurement Lab. For gaming, you’ll want to look for latency under 50ms, and lower is better.
Cox offers a great option with its Elite Gamer add-on for its plans. This will improve jitter, leading to a higher quality of play. Based on the averages found for the ISPs we are comparing, here are the jitter results:
If you intend to use wireless, the best WiFi for gaming is partly a factor of using a low-latency gaming router.
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What others are saying
Opinions on the best internet provider for gaming will vary, of course, but these options earn high marks from gamers.
“Elite Gamer promises to reduce lag when gaming online by automatically finding faster routes to whatever server you’re connecting with. ” – CNET
“Among fiber providers, AT&T offers cheaper plans with no data caps and several price levels. Plans range from 10Mbps to 940Mbps to easily accommodate simultaneous streaming for the many devices in your household. ” – ZDNet
“Spectrum comes in at No. 5 in our rating with a latency of 24 ms. Spectrum is No. 1 in the Best Internet Service Providers for Rural Areas of 2021. Its coverage is available in 41 states and it has three cable internet plans with prices starting at $49.99/month.” – US News & World Report
“Addresses equipped for a fiber-to-the-home connection might even be able to sign up for speeds of 3000Mbps, which is as fast as residential internet currently gets. Unless a dedicated fiber provider offers service in your area, the odds are good that Xfinity is your fastest option. ” – CNET
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Internet gaming FAQs
We’ve answered some of the most frequently asked questions on internet services and gaming.
Does online gaming need fast internet?
Playing a game online doesn’t necessarily need particularly fast speeds, but downloading games and additional content can be very time-consuming if speeds aren’t up to snuff. With everything taken into consideration, a baseline of 100Mbps is typically adequate.
How fast will my speed be?
Each company offer plans based on the maximum speed. This doesn’t mean your speed will always meet this maximum, as network congestion has a lot to do with performance. It is difficult to say how fast your internet will be at any given moment, but you can feel assured that the higher your maximum speed, the higher your everyday speed will typically be.
Choosing your provider
Whether you’re a casual gamer or an avid competitor, having fast, reliable internet is a must, and there are many great options. Most providers will have affordable plans offering at least 100Mbps, sufficient for most gamers. So a critical deciding factor may be finding a provider that also offers reduced latency and jitter, which are essential in terms of online gameplay.
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*Pricing varies by location and availability. Speeds may vary. All prices subject to change; for current pricing and availability visit our internet service page. Prices as of 1/7/22.
Disclosure | Updater articles are based on our own data and research, independent from partner relationships. We are not compensated by partners for information and opinions presented here. Our Editorial Terms of Service can be found here.