For years, video games have pushed the limits of computer hardware. The realm of online gaming is no exception, with many games consuming as much bandwidth as their connections will allow. There are many factors to consider when determining whether one DSL provider is better than another for online gaming.
Upstream and Downstream Capacity
When choosing a DSL provider, you need to know how data is handled and metered. Browsing the Internet and reading email may require you to receive large amounts of data, but it will send out a relatively smaller amount of data. Online games, by contrast, send significant amounts of data to game servers. When advertising DSL service, many providers list only the rate at which your connection will receive data, called the downstream bit rate. The rate of sending, or the upstream bit rate, is equally important. A slower upstream rate will result in poorer performance in online gaming. Many of the basic DSL services provide only 128 kilobits per second, or kbps, upstream data rates, while premium services will provide as much as ten times that rate, 1 megabit per second, or Mbps.
Game servers operate all over the world, and the faster your computer's data can reach that server, the better. When your data traverses a data network other than your DSL provider's, game performance can become less reliable. Therefore, a company that operates a large network, rather than using lines belonging to other firms, is better able to provide consistent service. Larger ISPs generally operate larger internal networks that span the physical length of the U.S. before having to "hand off" data to another network. DSL resellers, companies that don't own a network but instead use another company's network to offer competitive services, will provide less reliability.
Distance from Company
One aspect that affects all DSL providers is the distance from the nearest DSL transmission office. This is due to an electrical phenomenon called "attenuation," in which a signal degrades as the distance traveled increases. Though it is rare to have two competing DSL carriers in your neighborhood, the better service will ultimately come from the company that has equipment located closest to your home. The customer service desk of any DSL provider can often run a remote test to determine roughly what maximum speed your location can achieve, based on the distance.
A growing trend among DSL providers is to introduce bandwidth caps. These caps limit the total volume of data which can be upload or downloaded in a given month. Online games generally consume large amounts of bandwidth, putting you in peril of paying higher fees in the event that your games cause you to exceed the company's limit. The better DSL provider for online gaming is the one that has a higher, or preferably nonexistent, limit on monthly data usage.
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