Do You Need Upload Speed for Gaming? Why You Shouldn’t Worry

Do you need upload speed for gaming Title Picture

If you’re an online gamer, it’s essential that you know the different aspects of your gaming connection.

After all, the last thing you want is a laggy or delayed gaming experience.

The first aspect of an internet connection that online gamers analyze is usually their download speed. The download speed is an important part of the gaming experience (and internet experience in general), and it usually gets all the attention when talking about internet connections.

With that said, the aspect of your internet connection that’s less frequently evaluated is your upload speed.

So is upload speed needed for online gaming, or can that part of your internet connection be ignored?

An internet connection with upload speed is required for all online gaming sessions. If an online gamer has an internet connection with poor upload speed, the session will lag and cause a poor gaming experience.

In this post, I’ll explain why upload speed is needed for online gaming. I’ll also discuss why you shouldn’t be worried about the upload speed of your internet connection.

What Is Upload Speed Used for While Gaming?

To start at a high level, it’s essential that you have upload speed when you’re online gaming. To take it one step further, you need upload speed for any functioning internet connection.

The reason for this is due to the nature of internet activity. All internet activity involves data moving in two directions.

Let’s take a device requesting a web page for example.

When a user types a website URL into the web browser of their device, a request is sent from the device to the internet. Once the requested web page has been retrieved, it’s sent from the internet to the device that requested it.

Internet request for web page
Requesting a webpage from the internet requires data being sent to the internet, and the requested item being returned to the device

In this interaction, both an upload and download occurs. An upload occurs when the request for a web page is sent from the device to the internet (website request). At the end of the transaction, a download occurs when the web page is returned to the device (website returned).

Regardless of what’s being requested, any request sent to the internet is considered an upload. Online gaming is no exception.

In online gaming, there’s a constant flow of uploads happening. Depending upon the game being played, each mouse movement or keystroke will result in an action in the game. In order for these actions to be registered to the other players that’re in the gaming session, that input needs to be sent to the server that’s hosting the game.

Without breaking a sweat, I’m sure you can think of many actions during a gaming session that will result in an upload to the internet. To name a few, this list includes actions such as:

  • Any input in the game itself (e.g. moving a character, performing an action in the game, etc.)
  • Communicating with other players over a microphone
  • Messaging with other players
  • Joining or leaving a particular session

All of these actions will require that your internet connection has a certain amount of upload speed. The question is, how much upload speed do you need?

How Much Upload Speed Do You Need for Online Gaming?

Ok, so we’ve established that online gaming involves a lot of upload actions. As a result, you might think that a lot of upload speed is needed to support your gaming sessions.

The good news here is that’s not actually the case.

In fact, the majority of online games say that less than 5 megabits per second (Mbps) of upload speed is required for satisfactory gaming performance. The reason why such a low upload speed is required for online gaming is due to the fact that most of the actions I detailed in the previous section don’t require a lot of bandwidth.

The inputs or actions sent to a gaming server during a gaming session don’t involve large amounts of data. Although these actions are happening constantly, they’re all low-data actions that don’t add up to a large amount of total data being uploaded at a given time.

A key distinction to understand here is that when you’re gaming online, you’re not live streaming your screen to the gaming server. What’s actually happening is you’re sending your inputs to the game that’s hosted on the gaming server on the internet. This gaming server is then sending you the result of that action, where it’s displayed on your screen.

Gaming action process
Input from a gamer is sent to the gaming server, and the gaming server provides an updated game status after registering the action

If you were live streaming your gaming session to the public, however, you’d need much more upload speed (at least 10 additional Mbps of upload speed).

How Do I Know if I Have Enough Upload Speed for Online Gaming?

If you’re worried about not having enough upload speed for your online gaming sessions, you shouldn’t be.

The fact is, most internet plans provide more than 5 Mbps of upload speed. Most of the internet plans I’ve seen provide upload speeds of at least 10 Mbps. This should be more than enough to support a good online gaming experience.

If you’d like to find out the maximum upload speed of your internet plan, you may have to do some digging. That’s because the upload speed of a given internet plan isn’t usually widely broadcast. In my case, I can’t even see how much upload speed my internet plan provides by looking at my monthly bill. It only shows the maximum download speed of my plan:

Internet plan bill with download speed
My monthly internet bill only details the maximum download speed of my plan

If your goal is to find out the maximum upload speed of your internet plan, you may have to call you internet provider. Based upon the internet plan you have, they can tell you what your maximum upload speed is.

If your goal is to simply ensure you have more than 5 Mbps of upload speed, you have another option. You can just run a speed test of your internet connection. Just enter “speed test” into your browser search bar, and you’ll be provided with plenty of speed test options to choose from.

When running a speed test of my internet connection, I saw that I was getting double the upload speed I needed for a good online gaming experience.

Internet plan speed test results
A speed test of my internet connection revealed that I was getting close to 12 Mbps of upload speed

The bottom line is, in most cases you shouldn’t have anything to worry about when it comes to upload speed. This is especially true if you have a cable or fiber internet plan. If you have a DSL internet plan, you’ll want to run a speed test to ensure you’re getting at least 5 Mbps of upload speed. DSL internet plans use phone lines to access the internet, and they generally provide slower upload speeds than cable or fiber internet plans.

Wrap Up

When it comes to online gaming, the upload speed of your internet plan shouldn’t be an issue. If you’re experiencing lag or a delayed response while gaming, you should run a speed test of your internet connection first just to make sure your upload speed isn’t limiting your experience. If you’re getting enough upload speed, you should probably evaluate both your download speed and the capabilities of your system/device. Those are the more likely culprits of a poor online gaming experience.

If you have any questions about this information, please leave a comment below.

If this information was helpful to you, here are some other posts that are similar that you should check out:

Does a Modem Affect Upload Speed? Why You Shouldn’t Worry

Can a Router Affect My Upload Speed? What to Look At Instead

Does a Modem Matter for Gaming? What to Watch Out For

Does Using an Ethernet Cable Matter for Gaming?

Ross Ricky

Ross Ricky is an engineer and cybersecurity professional who wants nothing more than for you to get the most out of your home network.

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