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Bandwidth: Connection's Lifeblood

The internet is a fantastic gateway for gamers that allows them to cooperate and compete with others from all over the world. When considering the competitive side of online games, every second counts. That is why it can be so frustrating when a sudden slow connection causes you to miss that shot, be wiped out by an unseen opponent, or even disconnect entirely.

In a competition of skill and reflexes, a faulty internet connection can impose an unfair handicap. In matches for sports or racing, competitors always ensure that their equipment is functional and in good condition, so it makes sense for online gamers to do the same with their connection.

Those looking to improve their connection will often find bandwidth to be a common and recurring issue. This article will lay out in detail what bandwidth is, explain why it is so important for online gaming, and then offer a few simple tips for increasing your own bandwidth.

What is Bandwidth?

In technical terms, bandwidth encompasses a range of frequencies, which dictates the top speed at which data can be downloaded from or uploaded to the internet. To simplify, imagine the internet is water in a bottle. The wider the opening to the bottle, the faster liquid can be poured out. Therefore, the wider one's bandwidth, the more data can be downloaded each second.

Why Does Bandwidth Matter in Competitive Online Games?

The answer to this question may be somewhat obvious for competitive online veterans but may be a bit harder to grasp for those new to the genre or unfamiliar with the technical side of things. At the end of the day, it all comes down to speed.

A player's performance in a competitive online setting depends on several factors, such as their knowledge of the game, their hand-eye coordination, and their reflexes. The latter of these two skills can be severely bottlenecked by the speed at which their PC or console processes information. A player can only react to something once their device has shown them, and their reaction time only matters if their machine processes the input just as quickly.

For an easy-to-apply example, consider Call of Duty, a long-lived and especially popular FPS franchise encompassing numerous titles and forays into ESports and online marketplaces where players can purchase CoD Points to customize and enhance their gameplay. In a competitive Call of Duty match, the best players are those who can strategize, adapt, and react the fastest and most accurately.

Players with solid skills and good bandwidth will be able to identify targets and fire on them quickly and accurately. This is because the speed at which their inputs are uploaded to the online server is fast enough to register their actions in real time. That means that the space between when they see and fire on an opponent on their screen and their opponent's screen is only a couple of milliseconds long.

A player with solid skills but poor bandwidth may be able to identify targets quickly, but their PC or console may not download the current location of opponents fast enough, meaning what the player sees may be several seconds behind what the online server registers, leaving them firing at where their opponent was moments ago. Likewise, if their bandwidth keeps them behind the current state of the server, there may be a noticeable delay in the time the player fires and when the server registers that input, giving the opponent more time to react.

If a player's bandwidth is extremely poor, they may also notice one or more of the many dreaded connection issues that come with the territory. Severe lag may cause players to move extremely slow or clip through the environment, rubberbanding can throw off player movement and disrupt focus, and connection breaks may freeze the player in place or disconnect them from the server entirely.

How to Improve Bandwidth

Bandwidth is determined by a number of factors, including hardware, routers, the type of connection used, the number of devices running, internet plan, internet provider, and even the weather. While you can't control the weather, there are several ways to improve factors and remove issues to increase bandwidth.

Upgrade Internet Plan

Often, the most effective way to increase bandwidth is to upgrade to a better internet plan with higher Mbps (Megabits per second) such as the Fiber Internet. This is especially important if you typically stream lots of high-quality or data-heavy content such as movies or online games.

Hardwire Your Device

This may sound complicated, but hardwiring simply means making use of a wired internet connection rather than relying on wifi. Using a physical ethernet is faster and significantly more reliable than transmitting data over wifi, and can drastically increase bandwidth.

Turn Off Unused Devices and Applications

Sometimes, a device may be drawing on your internet without you knowing. Having a console streaming games while downloading movies on your PC will have an impact on the speed at which both devices can perform these tasks.

Additionally, applications on the same device may also reduce available bandwidth. Consider turning off background applications and pausing downloads when taking part in competitive online games. This is particularly important for applications or webpages streaming video or audio content.

Update Your Device

Oftentimes, the latest update for a device contains boosts to processing power and streamlining of features to improve performance and ease of use. That means that updating your device should be a regular part of maintenance if you want to increase your bandwidth.

Help Your Tech Work For You

For as much good as the internet offers, it presents just as many problems when it doesn't work properly. It's certainly not unusual to come across an issue that just doesn't make sense, but other times, the user may simply need to fix or upgrade their device and its parts to allow them the level of functionality they need. When it comes to competitive online gaming, don't settle for spotty bandwidth.

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