The best broadband plans for gaming in Australia

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A guide to gaming on Australian broadband

A solid Internet connection is a critical component of any gamer's toolkit. Between multi-gigabyte day-one patches, full seasons of downloadable content (DLC) and the growing popularity of always-online games like Destiny and PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, it's more important than ever to make sure your connection is up to snuff. Picking the right one, though, can be tricky. To find a plan that suits your needs, there are a few things you need to consider.

About the author

Matt Sayer is a writer covering the latest tech, telco and video game news at finder.com.au. In his downtime from helping Aussies make informed decisions on their broadband, mobile phone, and streaming video plans, he likes exploring rich video game worlds and kicking back with a good book.

How much data will you need?

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When sizing up data caps, the first thing to look for is excess data charges. Fortunately, most plans nowadays will simply “throttle” or “shape” your connection if you go over your cap, meaning your download speed will drop to a crawl, but you won't have to fork over an extra thousand dollars in overage charges at the end of the month. Still, be sure to read the fine print before signing up.

For the most part, the biggest threat to your data cap comes from downloading games, so your data needs will depend on whether you plan on buying your games digitally or hoofing it down to the store and picking up retail copies. If it's the former, it's worth noting that big AAA titles like GTA V and Batman: Arkham Knight can exceed 40GB each, making it easy to blow through the 250GB cap of some plans after downloading just a handful of games – and that's before you factor in online play, video streaming, Skype or anything else you do on the Internet.

Ideally, then, if you plan on downloading most of your games, you'll want an unlimited data cap or something in the 500GB/1000GB territory at least. Even if you buy your games on disc, game patches can weigh in at 10GB or more, putting serious strain on your monthly data allowance. To be safe, it's worth springing for at least a 250GB cap even if you're sticking with physical copies. Fortunately, you'll find plenty of affordable plans with unlimited data options in the table at the bottom of this guide.

Broadband Offer

TPG NBN Fast Bundle Unlimited 50/20 Mbps 1 Month

$69.99

Monthly

Min. Total Cost of $199.94

Provider Logo
Unlimited

Data

50 Mbps

Download Speed

How fast does your connection need to be?

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With games getting so big, the time between clicking the buy button and actually playing your purchase can be agonisingly long, especially if you don't shell out for a suitably fast connection. Broadband speeds typically range from 12Mbps at the low end to 100Mbps at the top tier, making for a wide variety of distinct experiences. It's important to remember that these figures are theoretical maximums, and in practice your connection speed might be significantly lower.

To put these speeds in more useful terms, consider a 40GB game download. A 12Mbps connection translates to around 1.5MB/s, meaning it would take approximately 7.6 hours to finish the download if it maintained its maximum speed the whole time, which is not always possible thanks to outside factors like server load and general network congestion. A 20Mbps connection would take around 4.5 hours and a 100Mbps connection would wrap up in less than an hour.

If you intend to download a lot of AAA games, and you don't want to leave your console or PC downloading overnight, shelling out for a 100Mbps connection can be a worthwhile investment. If you're okay with waiting, or your interest lies in smaller indie games, a 20Mbps connection might suffice – and it's typically a lot cheaper.

Gaming on the NBN

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With the NBN rolling out to more and more homes across Australia, you'll likely be facing an Internet upgrade sooner rather than later. That means you'll need to decide which of the four main NBN tiers to sign up for: Basic (NBN 12), Standard (NBN 25), Standard Plus (NBN 50) or Premium (NBN 100). To clarify, those numbers refer to the maximum theoretical speed of each tier. Basic plans support a maximum of 12Mbps and Premium plans go up to 100Mbps. However, these are absolute maximum speeds, and the typical user shouldn't realistically expect these speeds, especially during evening peak traffic hours. For a more detailed look at NBN speed tiers, check out our comprehensive guide here.

From a gaming perspective, the right tier for you depends mainly on what kinds of games you play, how quickly you move from one game to the next and in what format you typically buy your games.

If you tend to play smaller, independently developed games like Death Squared or Enter the Gungeon that favour gameplay over graphics, you probably won't need to download GBs upon GBs of data every time you buy a new game. Similarly, if you prefer purchasing physical discs instead of buying digital copies, your need for speed will be lower than it would otherwise. In both these cases, Basic and Standard NBN plans should be sufficient for your gaming needs.

Gamers who enjoy playing big-budget AAA games like Titanfall 2 and Prey will want to consider Standard as the bare minimum to avoid waiting endless hours for games to download. This is true even if you buy physical copies, since the number of post-release updates that games get these days means you'll likely need to download a couple of GBs' worth of patches right from day one.

Ideally, if you like keeping up with the big releases and you enjoy the convenience of buying games digitally, you'll want to aim for the Standard Plus or Premium tiers. These will give you the capacity to go from eying a 20GB game to having it downloaded and ready to play in as little as half an hour. If you're into games that receive frequent updates, such as PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds or Overwatch, this kind of speed ensures you're never left staring at a progress bar for too long.

One thing worth noting is that actually playing games online doesn't require a blazing-fast Internet connection. All tiers of the NBN are more than adequate for handling the small amount of network traffic involved in a match of Counter-Strike: GO or Battlefield 1.

How low does your ping have to be?

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Fast download speeds are good and all, but they don't mean much if you find yourself getting constantly gunned down in Call of Duty thanks to a high ping. For those unfamiliar with the term, ping is a measure of how long data takes to travel from your console or PC to a game's server. The higher the ping, the longer it takes for an online game to register your input, resulting in instances where your perfectly lined-up shot misses its mark or an enemy appears to shoot you through a solid wall.

Getting a low ping isn't as simple as picking the fastest broadband plan. A speedy connection to your Internet service provider (ISP) won't matter if the connection between your ISP and a game's server is sluggish. Some plans, such as MyRepublic's Gamer Plan, address this by optimising connections to the most popular game servers, aiming to always provide the lowest ping possible. If you're keen on topping the leaderboards, these plans can be a good investment.

Beyond opting for one of these gamer-focused plans, there's not a whole lot you can do to reduce ping other than sticking with games that support local servers and making sure your network is properly configured for online play.

Your best broadband provider options for gaming online

Taking all these factors into consideration, here are some of the best broadband plans to get your game on. Please note your personal circumstances when considering these recommended plans, as connection quality and speeds are dependent on multiple factors including location, local infrastructure, your home network and cabling, and network congestion.

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Picture: Shutterstock

Matt Sayer

Matt is a writer covering the latest tech, telco and video game news at finder.com.au. In his downtime from helping Aussies make informed decisions on their broadband, mobile phone, and streaming video plans, he likes exploring rich video game worlds and kicking back with a good book.

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