Why Can’t I Play Online Games with My Satellite Internet Connection?
Many rural internet users turn to satellite for reliable internet access in remote areas. With throughput speeds that rival the speeds of 4G LTE mobile broadband in urban centers, satellite internet is technically fast enough to support online gaming.
The technology’s high latency, however, makes playing real time games impossible. The latency or lag-time is the reaction time between the gamer’s action versus the game server response time. With satellite internet, the response time can be very slow for when playing multi-players games which can comprise large number of players.
Online Gaming Speed Requirements
Download speed (or downlink) is the speed, in megabits per second, that an internet connection receives online data packets over the network. When you browse the internet, read emails, or stream video, the download speed is the only speed that matters.
Upload speed (or uplink) is the speed that an internet connection sends online data packets over the network. When you use an online search engine, send emails, or upload photos or documents the upload speed is what matters.
Since most users download data more often that they upload it, asymmetrical networks privilege downloads. Online gaming involves both downloading (loading worlds, synthesizing multiplayer gaming) and uploading (controlling a character, actually playing).
The X Box Live Support Center offers the following minimal speed/throughput requirements for any online gaming:
– A download speed of 3 Mbps
– An upload speed of 0.5 Mbps
Satellite Internet Speeds
Satellite internet connects subscribers to the internet by transmitting satellite waves between satellite dishes on earth and satellite dishes in geostationary orbit. America’s most popular satellite internet providers are the national carriers HughesNet, Exede (which boasts the fastest speeds), and Dishnet.
While throughput speeds vary based on the provider, a satellite connection typically has:
– A download speed of 5 to 15 Mbps
– An upload speed of 1 to 2 Mbps
Online Gaming Latency Requirements
Latency is the time it takes for the data packet to travel from your computer to the internet server that it is communicating with and back. Obviously, good throughputs will decrease latency, but distance from the local hub will increase it. To avoid lags that make gameplay impossible, real time gaming requires:
– A latency of less than 100 milliseconds (ms)
Satellite Internet Latency
For satellite internet, the “local” hubs are geostationary satellites that orbit 22,000 miles above earth’s surface. It takes time for a data packet to travel 44,000 miles there and back. As a result, satellite has the worst latency in the broadband business. Typically, a satellite connection has:
– A latency of 500 to 1500 ms
Since it can take over a second to transmit data packets via satellite, the connection significantly decreases the user response time in games like Age of Empires, Battlefield, Call of Duty, Minecraft, and World of Warcraft. Even if you are able to load these games’ online worlds without issue (which the speeds of satellite internet will support), the lag time makes it difficult to play them effectively.
What Does Work
Satellite internet does not make all online gaming impossible. If you’re a gamer trying to entertain yourself with satellite internet, however, you’re going to have to lower your standards. Traditional, turn based games like online chess and card games will work on satellite, as will single-player games that do not require a fast response time, like Angry Birds, Candy Crush, and Farmville.