Best Internet For Gaming In Rural Areas
When you mention online gaming to anyone living in rural areas, most will reply with the same thing – it’s impossible. Whether suffering from slow speeds, high ping, data issues, or a combination of all three, teaming up with friends to beat the season’s most action-packed games has been frustrating to say the least.
Poor service and limited options have resulted from the inability of large cable and fiber providers like Comcast, Verizon, AT&T, and Charter to make a profit in these areas. Rural homes are fewer and are spread much further out than in cities and suburbs, so with a greater cost to run cables and install equipment to a small customer base, its just not worth it to these companies.
Have rural internet options changed?
Thankfully, as the Internet has become more ingrained in our everyday lives, additional options have become available. Rural homes won’t be seeing 500 Mbps fiber internet any day soon, but new options like fixed wireless Internet, and mobile broadband, streaming and gaming become possible no matter where you live!
Below we’ll dive into each option to help you choose the best internet option for gaming in rural areas.
Fixed Wireless Internet
Fixed Wireless providers have been popping up all over the country, primarily in rural areas, and work by providing internet access to your home through radio waves. Not to be confused with satellite Internet which broadcasts service from the sky, fixed wireless providers install a receiver on your home and point it towards their tower on the ground.
How is the gaming experience on fixed wireless?
Because most fixed wireless providers are small, privately-owned companies there is a wide variety of plans available across the US. For the most part, there will be no data caps on these plans, and the user will see 5-30 Mbps and a 20-60 MS ping on average.
Pricing is generally between $40 and $70 per month, with an additional equipment fee in most cases. Additionally, most plans are month to month.
If you can fall into the averages from above, fixed wireless is probably the best option for your home and will present no limitations to gaming!
Will fixed wireless be available to me?
Unfortunately, because you need to have a line of sight to the tower with limited barriers (large trees, mountains, tall buildings), as well as live within 10 miles of the tower, fixed wireless is not available to the majority of rural homes.
It’s best to do your own local google search for “fixed wireless internet providers near me”, but you can also use a site like [Broadbandnow]. Just note, it may not be 100% accurate.
Mobile Broadband Internet
As wireless networks like Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile increase network coverage and capabilities, mobile broadband has emerged as a popular option for rural homes. Unlike fixed wireless, which delivers Internet over radio frequencies, mobile broadband piggybacks off of cell towers to bring you your service. All you need to get started with mobile broadband is an activated wireless router from the provider. If you would like to connect devices (laptops, tablets, gaming consoles) over Wi-Fi you will also need to add a router that will connect to your modem.
If service is available to you, speeds can range from 3 – 30 Mbps and ping rates are generally below 60ms. The biggest drawback with service is the price and data caps. For example, as of August 2019, a T-mobile broadband internet plan that gets you 22 GB of data costs $85.
If you can’t get high-speed internet from a DSL or fixed wireless provider, mobile broadband will be your next best option. Recommend going with a company like GotW3. GotW3 has agreements with the large mobile broadband providers that allow you to get tons of data, a lower ping rate, and great speeds. Service from GotW3 is $109/month, but to get a good solution while living rural, it’s well worth it.
How is the gaming experience on mobile broadband?
The average speed of a mobile broadband user is around 25 Mbps with a ping around 40 ms. If you are around the average you will have little tono limitations on gaming!
We do not recommend going direct through one of the large companies because they cannot offer unlimited plans so you will meet your data cap quickly, and either be slowed down to under 1 Mbps, cut off until your service renews, or will have to buy additional data which will get very costly. Instead, work with a company that has direct agreements with the large providers to resell their plans, but with unlimited service. The largest companies providing this service are GotW3, Unlimitedville, and UnlimitedToGO.
Will mobile broadband be available to me?
Cell service through the major providers covers almost the entire US, meaning there’s a good chance mobile broadband service is available to you. You can use a tool like this to see which cell providers have towers near you. To get service, you must live within 12 miles (20 KM) of a AT&T, T-mobile, Sprint, or Verizon tower.
Companies like GotW3 will check all 3 companies for you to find the strongest connection for your service. The stronger your connection, the faster your service will be and the better your gaming experience. If you live far from a cell tower, its still possible you can get service, buy it may be recommended to purchase a booster to increase your connection.
If fast DSL internet is available at your location, it’s most likely your best option. DSL runs through your existing phone lines, doesn’t tie it up, has a low ping rate, and plans generally have high or no data caps. Sounds like a no brainer for the best option – right?
The issue with DSL, is the further you get from a city center, the slower the speeds that are available to you. Living rural means you’re not likely to be close to a center so it’s very likely you don’t have fast speeds available to you.
If you do have service available at your address, DSL speeds can range from 1 to 100 Mbps, and the largest providers to look for are AT&T, CenturyLink, Windstream, Verizon, EarthLink, and Frontier Communications.
It’s very difficult to know the estimated speeds you will receive, so if DSL is available to you on a month-to-month plan, we recommend trying service for a few months so you know what you can expect at your address. Proceed with caution if you have to get locked into a one or two-year contact because a sales agent might oversell the service.
How is the gaming experience on DSL?
If high-speed DSL is available to you, your gaming experience will be no different than those on a high-speed cable plan. You will have no restrictions and every type of game will be possible!
If you are one of the unlucky customers that can’t get a constant, high-speed connection, gaming can be rough with DSL. Because service is delivered through your phone line, ping will not be an issue in limiting the games you can play, but speed will be. Many DSL customers who live at the edges of a service providers network often see speeds at or below 3 Mbps. With the average speed of 3 Mbps needed for real-time FPS games, you will not be able to play games like Rainbow Six Siege, Fortnite, Apex, Overwatch, Counter-Strike and others.
Although it may be a little frustrating because of the speed, you will be able to play real-time strategy, massively multiplayer, and role playing games as long as you can keep a constant 1+ Mbps download.
Will DSL be available to me?
There is no rhyme or reason as to whether you will have DSL available at your home. It’s possible your neighbor down or across the street has service and you do not.
You will need to reach out to your local provider and talk with a service representative. To find if there is a DSL provider in your area you can enter your zip code here.
Available from coast to coast, with the largest reach of all internet types, is satellite Internet. HughesNet and Viasat (formerly Exede) are the two players in this space, and each have their own satellites in the sky. These satellites can beam service to a satellite receiver on your home to provide you with internet. Because satellite can cover so much territory, satellite Internet can reach even the most rural of areas in the US.
As technology has improved, satellite plan speeds range from 10 – 100 Mbps which is great for the casual user. Plans generally cost between $50 and $150 a month depending on how much data you choose.
The drawback with satellite however, is that all plans have a “soft” data cap, and ping can be as high as 150+ ms because of the distance your requests have to travel. Both of these attributes make things like video calls and FPS gaming nearly impossible.
How is the gaming experience on satellite Internet?
Because of the high ping rate, any real-time game that requires any sort of instant reaction will not be playable. Your competition will always have a 100+ ms advantage over you which makes it nearly impossible to win.
You can play some “turn-based” games, such as casual games/Facebook games, some MMO’s, some Strategy games, and online board games, but remember that satellite Internet has a soft cap. Once you reach your monthly data allotment, your service will be slowed down to on average 2 Mbps.
Here is a resource that further explains what can, and can’t be played with satellite.
Will satellite Internet be available to me?
Satellite is most likely available at your address. With two providers to choose from, almost the entire US is covered.
There are a few dead-zones with satellite, and you must have a location on your property with no obstructions (most commonly large trees) for a satellite receiver to point to the sky.
There is no one size fits all solution for getting a good gaming internet option at your home. Internet options available, providers, and actual results will vary from address-to-address, and it’s very possible you will have to go through a few options to find the best provider for you.
We would recommend taking the following path:
- See if DSL is available at your address. If it is, and speeds are 10 + Mbps, this is probably your best gaming option. If speeds are slow, move to fixed wireless.
- Fixed wireless is hit-or-miss. If you live close enough to the tower, with limited obstructions speed is most likely fast and constant. If not, move to mobile broadband. Fixed wireless has the smallest reach, so it’s possible it’s not even an option for you.
- In many cases, mobile broadband can be better than fixed wireless, but we made it the third option as it can be the most costly. Reach out to a company like GotW3 to see if you are a good candidate for service. Don’t forget you can always use an amplifier for better service.
- If the three options above aren’t available to you, or provider poor results, satellite Internet may be your only option. You will have to greatly limit the type of games you play and will have to work around the data caps.