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Back to Blog • Posted on November 9, 2014 by admin
As Verizon Wireless’s 4G LTE and XLTE networks expand, a common question has begun make its way around the online gamer forums: Can I play online multiplayer games using a Verizon cellular hotspot?
The short answer is yes; the long answer may surprise you.
The biggest concern for gamers is something called latency. Latency is the time it takes for your Internet connection to communicate with the game’s server. When latency becomes too high, gamers experience something called “lag.” Lagging is exactly what it sounds like: the game experience actually lags, or falls behind, the experience of other players in the same game. This, of course causes glitches, premature death in first-person shooters, and indefensible touchdowns in Madden, along with a litany of other unfavorable experiences.
Cable and DSL connections will ping (or send a signal to) servers in about 25 to 50 milliseconds. This is the optimal amount of time for a signal to reach a server as the delay is virtually unnoticeable. Meanwhile a 3G connection will ping the server in about 125 milliseconds. The difference may be relatively small, but even a novice gamer will notice the delays. So, how about LTE?
4G LTE pings can run as low as 45 milliseconds. While its not the near-speed-of-light 25ms ping provided by cable, the delay is negligible. And compared to 3G or satellite internet (the bane of internet gaming), 45ms ping times are a welcome relief. In some areas, the LTE network may even provide faster ping times than local DSL lines.
A common misconception is that online gaming will eat through a monthly data allowance too quickly. This is simply not the case. A specific game’s server is actually hosting the majority of the data being transferred.
The combined download/upload data stream typically yields around 17.5kB/s, (17.5kB/s X 60 seconds = 1.05 MB per minute). This works out to about 63MB per hour or about 80 hours or gaming per month on the standard 5GB plan offered by Verizon. This is a hefty amount of gameplay in a month even for the most hardcore gamers.
Of course, these are just averages. Some games will, of course, use more bandwidth than others. But the majority of First Person Shooters, MMORPG, and Sports Simulations will use around 50-75 MB per hour. A casual gamer should be able to log a modest amount of gametime on his PC, XBOX, or Playstation, while still having a viable amount of data left to browse the web.
There is, however, a caveat. Minimizing latency is an important part of online gaming, but signal strength and bandwidth speeds can play an integral part in a successful gaming experience. Most signal issues are related to the building itself degrading the signal before it reaches a WIFI device. Specifically, the material a building is made out of can cause signal interference. Additionally, energy efficient appliances may also play a part in disrupting your signal. Most importantly, of course, is the distance between your device and the cell phone tower.
The solutions for these problems are as varied as their counterparts. The simplest is purchasing an aftermarket antenna for your hotspot. Almost all of the MIFIs designed by Novatel for the Verizon network have an antenna port. In a lot of areas, a simple $25 antenna kit can resolve any, and all, latency and signal strength issues a gamer may be experience. Taking a gamer’s drive for streamlined gaming a step further, cellular amplifiers or boosters can make your signal strength comparable to living next to cell tower. This, of course, is a pricier solution to a relatively simple problem. Sometimes, the solution might be to just ensure your hotspot is in an open area and that there are no electronic devices interfering with your signal.
Of course we all want to game online at the fastest speeds possible, but sometimes a cable or DSL connection is just not a viable option. Luckily, Verizon’s expanding 4G LTE network provides a cost effective solution.
Taking a look at the Verizon 4G coverage map, even the most rural areas are beginning to get service. In fact, cellular coverage across all carriers is now expanding into areas where DSL and cable simply can’t, or won’t, go. Hotspots like the Verizon MIFI 4510L or MIFI 4620L are great for gaming at the vacation home outside the city, residences in areas whose infrastructure may be lacking, or even as backup during pesky cable outages.
The reality is, cellular data reliability has come a long way. 3G networks are dying, and gone are the days of unplayable lagging. As Verizon continues to expand their network, and release new mobile broadband devices, connectivity will become even more stable. For now, placing your MIFI by a window, shutting down any other electronic devices that may interfere with your signal, or even purchasing a cellular booster, will provide the connection necessary to be competitive in any online gaming community.