Fibre gives online gaming a boost

gaming broadband

ONLINE gaming traffic on the Plusnet network has increased by 50% in the past year, the BT-owned ISP reports.

Households with fibre connections are particularly likely to slip into Call of Duty addiction.

Plusnet fibre customers are using about 3.5 times more data for gaming than standard users: the average FTTC customer uses 1600MB, an ADSL2+ user just 450MB.

"Looking at our customer base and the activity being undertaken, gaming usage on FTTC is definitely growing at a faster rate than on ADSL," Dave Tomlinson, Plusnet's Senior Product Specialist told us.

The speed bump

However, the fibre difference is curious, in a way, because gamers actually don't really need very fast broadband speeds.

A reliable, stable connection is far more important to smooth gameplay than good speeds.

Fibre is more reliable than ADSL but it doesn't necessarily reduce jitter, which is generally caused by poor network management.

Virgin Media's fastest deals, for example, have a very mixed reputation among gamers: many complain their play is plagued by lag, especially at peak times.

Maybe its just the perception that fibre is better for gaming that's driving the increase, then, or that gamers are more likely to think paying a bit extra for the best broadband is worthwhile.

And Tomlinson has another theory: increasingly unlimited deals.

The unlimited bump

Again, it's a curious one, since, as you can see from the usage statistics above, online gaming doesn't actually use that much data.

Even with this year's increase, gaming bandwidth accounts for just 2% of Plusnet's total traffic.

Streaming services are a far, far larger proportion: 50% of the total bandwidth use on the Plusnet network.

Yet, Tomlinson says, it's not just fibre but particularly unlimited fibre that may be driving the way people spend their time online.

"The dawn of unlimited broadband could well be a reason," he says, "...people were likely to restrain themselves when on a fixed usage product.

"Now they know they don't have to worry with unlimited products."

There's still a perception that gaming is a bandwidth heavy activity, using up the data allowance and slowing down other people trying to use the internet at the same time.

In fact, streaming services like iPlayer, 4OD and Netflix are far more likely to affect the online experience of other users in a household.

Perhaps streaming gaming services like OnLive, released by BT a couple of years ago have confused the issue.

That service does use a lot of data - about 0.9GB for 1 hour of gameplay - but, Plusnet's research shows, in general gamers are far more likely to stick with platforms or low bandwidth PC applications.

Xbox Live and Playstation Network each account for about 30% of use, PC and Laptops another 25%.

A return for gaming deals?

As online gaming grows, maybe we'll see a return to the gaming specific broadband deals of a few years back.

Once a staple of any dedicated gamer's home broadband comparison, deals like Plusnet's Pro, offering a connection that prioritises gaming traffic, have slowly fallen from view.

Last month, however, Virgin Media announced that they'd be partnering with Sony for the launch of the PlayStation 4 in early November and strongly implied that gaming specific deals will follow.

Sony's Jim Ryan said that the PS4 deal was struck to ensure that "bits of the pipe are left open to gamers".

That could mean the return of prioritised or low latency connections for gamers.

Although, since this is Virgin Media we're talking about, it could also be launch day hyperbole.

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