Gaming broadband

Last updated: 8 June 2023   By Julia Kukiewicz

Gaming broadband needs to be reliable, with fast latency rates and ideally symmetrical upload and download speeds.

The best broadband for gaming needs to be fast, but that's not the only important metric. Latency rates and reliability in general also make a difference to an online gaming experience.

Vodafone Pro II is our top choice for gaming broadband due to bundling the most advance WiFi 6E router, which is perfect for virtual reality gamers.

Sky and Plusnet are also good options for gaming broadband thanks to a strong performance in reliability metrics and web page loading speed.

gaming broadband virtual reality

Verdict: Best broadband for gaming

While it's possible to upgrade to gaming specific routers, broadband providers don't offer niche gaming broadband plans.

However, looking for reliable, stable and faster broadband services, as well as those with extra services and more advance routers, can improve a home gaming experience.

The top gaming broadband providers are:

We'd also give serious consideration to full fibre providers Community Fibre who, while limited to availability in London, offer symmetrical upload and download speeds, alongside a WiFi 6 router on their gigabit-capable plan.

Our top three providers are also all Openreach fibre to the home connections, which while they've been shown to offer faster web loading and latency than networks like Virgin Media, their availability is currently only 10 million premises.

Virgin Media may well be a good option for some gamers as their fastest Gig1 plan, with WiFi 6 router, is available to more than 16.1 million premises across the UK.

Let's take a closer look at why we've picked these three providers for gaming.


Vodafone Pro II

Vodafone's latest premium broadband packages, Pro II, offer customers increased reliability on their broadband plan.

Vodafone Pro II full fibre broadband also has slightly wider availability than Sky and Plusnet as they also use the CityFibre network. As such, Vodafone Pro II is available to over 12.5 million premises across the UK.

Vodafone Pro II includes:

  • The latest and most advance WiFi 6E router for the fastest speeds over wireless
  • Super WiFi guarantee for whole home wireless coverage
  • 4G automatic back-up for if the fixed line broadband connection ever goes down
  • WiFi Xperts who proactively monitor and fix WiFi issues

WiFi 6E is the latest wireless protocol and so far, only offered by Vodafone on their Pro II plan. WiFi 6E enables faster downloads, with improved response times and low latency - perfect for gamers using virtual reality devices or for those gaming in HD.

Here is the latest pricing for Vodafone Pro II broadband plans:

Package Broadband Monthly price Upfront price Contract term
Full Fibre 150 + Super WiFi 6 150Mb average £36 Free 24 months
offer Offer: Power Hub with WiFi 6 + Super WiFi 6 Booster + Automatic 4G Broadband Back-Up + £3 off for Vodafone pay monthly customers
Pro II Full Fibre 200 200Mb average £40 Free 24 months
offer Offer: New Ultra Hub with WiFi 6E + Super WiFi 6E Booster + Automatic 4G Broadband Back-Up + £3 off for Vodafone pay monthly customers
Full Fibre 910 + Super WiFi 6 910Mb average £46 Free 24 months
offer Offer: Power Hub with WiFi 6 + Super WiFi 6 Booster + Automatic 4G Broadband Back-Up + £3 off for Vodafone pay monthly customers + Up to £100 of your leaving fees covered when switching to Vodafone Broadband

While some of the extras Vodafone Pro II offers are available through BT, including the 4G back-up and whole home WiFi guarantees, their pricing is much more competitive.

Overall, thanks to a partnership with both Openreach and CityFibre, Vodafone Pro II has better availability than rival providers, and also offers competitive pricing by bundling some great extras for reliability in the listed price.

Read our Vodafone home broadband review.


Sky

As the UK's second biggest broadband provider, Sky are a familiar name and their full fibre broadband is now available to over 10 million premises, thanks to the Openreach rollout.

Sky offers download speeds of up to 900Mb per second, with customers also able to take packages at 145Mb and 500Mb per second.

Sky are one of our best gaming broadband providers because:

  • They offer one of the most reliable broadband connections in the UK
  • Their fibre to the home packages are now available to over 10 million premises, with their underlying network provider on target to reach 25 million premises by the end of 2026
  • They have the fewest number of complaints against all other major providers
  • They're one of the best providers for customer service

Gamers will want to check for availability in their area of Sky's full fibre broadband, as this offers the fastest download speeds, combined with low latency rates and increased reliability.

Here is the latest pricing for Sky's fibre to the home deals:

Package Broadband Monthly price Upfront price Contract term
Ultrafast Broadband 145Mb average £29 £5 18 months
offer Offer: WiFi Max just £3/mth + (£5 refundable setup fee for new customers if applicable)
Ultrafast Plus Broadband 500Mb average £32 £5 18 months
offer Offer: WiFi Max just £3/mth + (£5 refundable setup fee for new customers if applicable)
Gigafast Broadband 900Mb average £42 £5 18 months
offer Offer: WiFi Max just £3/mth + (£5 refundable setup fee for new customers if applicable)

Wherever possible Sky are connecting households to their full fibre network even where they opt for superfast speeds on 61Mb plans. This means even households on a budget but who live within a full fibre enabled area will benefit from the more reliable connection.

Read our full review of Sky broadband here.

Customers who can't get BT full fibre should check their postcode to see what other independent full fibre networks may be available to them, including Virgin Media who offers the UK's fastest download speed.


Plusnet

Plusnet broadband provides access to the same full fibre network as Sky, and so while availability will be the same between providers, Plusnet offer cheaper prices for equivalent download speeds.

They've recently launched a gigabit-capable plan, after previously only offering speeds of up to 500Mb per second, and they also offer a cheaper 145Mb plan too.

Plusnet are one of the best broadband providers for gaming because:

  • They are our top choice for most reliable broadband
  • They have the lowest level of faults across all major providers, as well as the lowest number of customers who have to contact them more than once about the same fault
  • They have the most satisfied customers with both their service overall and speed of service in the latest research by Ofcom
  • They share the fast web loading times and low latency rates as BT as they provide access to the same fibre to the home connections

Here is Plusnet's full fibre broadband pricing:

Package Broadband Monthly price Upfront price Contract term
Full Fibre 145 145Mb average £27.99 Free 24 months
offer Offer: Save over £12/mth + No setup fee + Exclusive offers and discounts for Plusnet customers
Full Fibre 500 500Mb average £33.99 Free 24 months
offer Offer: Save over £19/mth + No setup fee + Exclusive offers and discounts for Plusnet customers
Full Fibre 900 900Mb average £44.99 Free 24 months
offer Offer: Save over £17/mth + No setup fee + Exclusive offers and discounts for Plusnet customers (Ends 29/05/2024)

Plusnet is around £8 cheaper per month than equivalent plans from Sky, so while they offer less frills and extras, gaming broadband households on a budget may want to seriously consider them as a provider.

Read our Plusnet broadband review for more information.


Virgin Media

Our final choice for gaming broadband is Virgin Media. Their fastest gigabit-capable plan, Gig1, is available to over 16.1 million premises across the UK, making them the fastest widely available broadband provider.

In addition to fast download speeds, Virgin Media also provide Gig1 customers with their latest Hub 5 router, which supports WiFi 6 and has a 2.5Gb Ethernet LAN connection.

Here is the latest pricing for Virgin Media broadband:

Package Broadband Monthly price Upfront price Contract term
M125 Fibre Broadband 132Mb average £26 Free 18 months
offer Offer: Reduced price: £26 per month + No setup fee (was £35)
M500 Fibre Broadband 516Mb average £35 Free 18 months
offer Offer: 500Mb broadband for the price of 350Mb + No setup fee (was £35)
Gig1 Fibre Broadband 1.13Gb average £41 Free 18 months
offer Offer: Reduced price: £41 per month + No setup fee (was £35)

The major downside to Virgin Media for gamers is that the technology used by the majority of their network is not as reliable as the latest full fibre connections offered by Vodafone, Sky, and Plusnet.

While Virgin Media have plans to upgrade their entire network to full fibre by the end of 2028, for now, most customers will have coaxial cable connecting their home to Virgin Media's network, which isn't as good.

As a result, Virgin Media often post slow latency, or ping, rates in independent research compared to BT's fibre to the home network. In fact, Virgin Media's ping is slower on average than even fibre to the cabinet connections which rely on the old copper telephone lines to connect a customer's home.

Read more on Virgin Media broadband, including their fastest M500 and Gig1 packages.


What makes broadband good for gaming?

We looked at several factors when choosing the best broadband for gaming, including:

  • Download speeds, faster broadband will provide better gaming experiences and allow for faster game downloads
  • Fast latency, or ping, rates
  • Fast real-world web loading times
  • Low daily disconnections, and strong performance in reliability metrics like low fault rates
  • Wireless router speeds for gamers who use virtual reality devices, or devices that can't support a wired connection

Minimum download speeds for gaming

Microsoft and Playstation recommend a minimum download speed of 3Mb for Xbox Series X and 5Mb for PS5 gaming.

Yet that seems underrated especially when we consider a home broadband network will have multiple devices, including smartphones, tablets and laptops, connected at the same time.

Broadband download speeds of at least 50Mb to 100Mb would be more appropriate for online gaming then, and downloading large game files may need a faster connection still.

Downloading games

Looking at some of the most popular gaming titles for 2023, we can see how long it would take to download each game on different broadband speed plans.

Gigabit (1000Mb) Ultrafast (300Mb) Superfast (60Mb)
Xbox One Minecraft (1.3GB) 11 seconds 37 seconds 3 minutes
Xbox Series X/S Fortnite Chapter 4 Season 1 (18GB) 2 minutes, 34 seconds 9 minutes 43 minutes
PS5 FIFA 23 (50GB) 7 minutes 24 minutes 2 hours
Xbox Series X Assassin's Creed Valhalla (104GB) 15 minutes 49 minutes 4 hours, 8 minutes
PS5 Destiny 2 (105GB) 15 minutes 50 minutes 4 hours, 11 minutes
PS5 Call of Duty Black Ops Cold War (220GB) 32 minutes 1 hour, 45 minutes 8 hours, 45 minutes

As you can see, unless you don't mind waiting around for a long time for a game to download, ultrafast or even gigabit broadband connections are much better suited to downloading large gaming files.

Cloud gaming or streaming

Cloud gaming, currently in Beta for Xbox, allows people to play games online on multiple devices without needing to download the game outright.

It's a great option for people with PCs, Apple computers, or even smartphones and tablets, to access a range of online games in the cloud.

Minimum download speeds for cloud gaming are higher than for online console gaming, with Xbox recommending a minimum speed of 20Mb and a 5GHz WiFi channel.

Playstation Now only requires users to have a minimum download speed of 5Mb, although as with console gaming, we'd urge on the side of caution here and suggest a 50Mb speed would be better.

Nvidia GeForce Now has a minimum download speed of 15Mb or 25Mb for HD gaming.

Latency or ping

Latency, or ping as its also referred to, is one of the important metrics to look at when finding the best gaming broadband.

Latency is the amount of time it takes for data to travel through the network, a fast latency rate means a fast response time to user inputs like through gaming controllers.

Independent research by Ofcom has found BT's full fibre network has better latency, or ping, rates than that of Virgin Media, and older fibre to the cabinet connections.

Latency (lower is better)
BT FTTP 145Mb 7.72
BT FTTP 300Mb 7.76
TalkTalk Full Fibre 500 9.10*
Plusnet FTTC 10.08
BT FTTC 10.16
Virgin Media M500 13.72
Virgin Media Gig1 16.01

*Data from previous research published in October 2022 for comparison purposes.

The average latency rate for BT's full fibre to the home packages is less than half of Virgin's - and it's consistent across the different speed ranges.

So, while Virgin Media's headline speeds may be some of the fastest around, their latency stats could be an issue for gamers.

Fast web loading page times

Like latency rates, web page loading times can give us a good indication as to how fast a broadband connection is at sending and receiving data, which also translates into the speed of input responses from a gaming controller.

Gamers obviously need fast response times as it could be the difference between shooting an opponent first, or being killed before your input is registered by the system.

Web page loading (average)
BT FTTP 145Mb 90.40
BT FTTP 300Mb 93.55
BT FTTC 138.77
Plusnet FTTC 162.98
Virgin Media Gig1 220.17
Virgin Media M500 370.27

Independent research shows us how BT's full fibre to the home plans have a faster web page loading time than faster packages on Virgin Media's network.

While Virgin's fastest Gig1 plan bought their average loading time down by some margin, it was still slower than fibre to the cabinet connections from BT and Plusnet that have average download speeds more than ten times slower than Gig1.

Overall, these results indicate for the fastest gaming experience, opting for a broadband connection on the Openreach fibre to the home network is the best bet for gamers.

Daily disconnections and reliability

Reports into average daily disconnections of various broadband packages can show us how reliable and stable a connection is likely to be.

High levels of daily disconnections could point to poorly performing or faulty network connections, they're also more likely for homes that are far from the exchange as the increased distance of wiring is more likely to cause dropouts.

Average daily disconnection rate (30 seconds or more)
BT FTTP 0.035
Plusnet FTTC 0.07
Virgin Media 0.09
BT FTTC 0.10

While Virgin Media's performance here is more in line with their competitors, BT's full fibre network again shows the lowest number of daily disconnections.

To put these numbers into context, daily disconnections seen on ADSL (that is copper broadband) are 0.17 on average. So, all of these technologies have more stable connections than old phone line only connections.

Low contention ratios

Gamers looking for the best broadband should consider contention as a high contention ratio can mean slower or sluggish broadband speeds. However, while contention used to be more widely published, it's not a figure that's easy to pin down.

In addition, where broadband connections are becoming fibre to the home, contention has a much more reduced affect as speeds can be maintained over fibre optic cabling much better than older copper connections.

One thing gamers can do however is to check speed estimates given at the point of sign up for a better indication of how fast their individual connection is going to be.

Providers signed up to Ofcom's Broadband Speed Code of Practice have agreed to give personalised estimates of broadband speed at sign up, and where this is subsequently undelivered, customers can exit their contracts early without penalty.

Broadband providers signed up to the code include BT, EE, NOW Broadband, Plusnet, Sky, TalkTalk, Utility Warehouse, Virgin Media and Zen Internet.

Advance wireless router

The best gaming broadband could be enhanced or hindered by the wireless router, so getting the right router for gaming is also important.

While there are many gaming specific broadband routers users can choose to upgrade to, many broadband providers are now including more advanced routers within their plans.

Vodafone Pro II as mentioned in our best gaming broadband list above comes with the latest WiFi 6E router and is the only provider to offer such advanced wireless tech.

Gamers who don't want to or can't use a wired connection from their router will want to consider the best wireless connection for devices such as virtual reality headsets or even for smartphone gaming.

For those who can connect their console to a wired connection however, Virgin Media's Hub 5 router, that's bundled with their fastest Gig1 plan, comes with a 2.5Gb Ethernet LAN connection - which is ideal for a fast connection to an Xbox or Playstation.


How to get the best gaming experience

As well as signing up to the best broadband for gaming, there are plenty of other ways gamers can improve their gaming experience.

Opt for fibre to the home

We've covered in this guide how full fibre to the home broadband is the best option for gamers as it offers increased reliability, lower latency or ping rates, and sometimes symmetrical upload speeds.

BT Openreach's full fibre network is now available to over 10 million premises across the UK, and they have rapid expansion plans to reach 25 million by the end of 2026. So even if it's not available to your home right now, chances are that will soon change, so it's worth keeping an eye on our broadband availability checker.

In addition, BT aren't the only provider to offer access to this full fibre network. IT's already being resold by providers including Plusnet, TalkTalk, Sky, Vodafone, and Shell Energy Broadband, so people have a wide range of prices and offers to choose from.

Discover the fastest broadband in your area.

Upgrade your broadband router

While broadband routers are generally more advanced than they used to be, with most providers supporting intelligent mesh for extending the wireless network seamlessly around a home, there is often still room for improvement.

It's possible to get gaming specific routers which better handle fast response times and deliver a faster, smoother, experience for gamers. We've reviewed the best wireless routers to improve broadband speed for both fibre to the cabinet and full fibre customers here.

Gamers should look for the latest WiFi protocols if they also have new gaming consoles or the latest smartphones, or fast Ethernet LAN connections for wired use to consoles.

The best routers will also increase power to antennae, along with offering more channels or better data management, to improve wireless coverage and make connections more stable.

Use a wired connection

The most fail-safe way to improve a gaming experience is to connect the console directly to the router via Ethernet LAN.

Wired connections can help to ensure gamers get the full speed of their broadband connection without interference from neighbours, electrical equipment in the home, or even thick walls.


Summary: best broadband for gaming

Vodafone Pro II broadband is our top choice for gaming, and we've chosen them because:

  • They offer the most advance wireless router technology supporting WiFi 6E on both the main router and any boosters
  • They bundle a whole home WiFi guarantee with access to WiFi 6E boosters to increase wireless coverage seamlessly around a home
  • They bundle automatic 4G back-up to protect homes from any potential downtime of their fixed line connection
  • They have WiFi Xperts who proactively monitor the wireless network for any improvements that can be made
  • They have increased availability by partnering with both Openreach and CityFibre full fibre networks
  • Pro II broadband is affordable, with prices starting from £40 a month for a full fibre connection, and is available on their fastest gigabit-capable plan too

Sky, Plusnet, and even Virgin Media are also good options however, and for people living in specific areas, independent full fibre providers like Community Fibre in London are also good choices for reliable and fast broadband for gaming.

When looking for the right gaming broadband package, general rules on speed and reliability apply, but it's also worth considering final details such as latency or ping rates, packet loss, and disconnections.

Lastly, while the full fibre and gigabit rollout around the UK is continuing apace, customers will still need to check availability at their address to find the best broadband deal for them.

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