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Cityfibre Criticises Slow Copper Broadband for Laggy Online Games

Wednesday, October 17th, 2018 (10:50 am) - Score 2,501
multiplayer_gaming_latency_uk_isp

Full fibre (FTTP) builder Cityfibre has used a new survey of 1,005 “serious” online gamers (multiplayer) as ammunition to criticise older copper based broadband (ADSL) and hybrid fibre (FTTC etc.) ISPs, which they complain have plagued users with connectivity issues (“too much lag“) and slow download speeds.

The survey, which was conducted by Censuswide between 17th and 18th September 2018, found that 54% of serious gamers (defined as respondents who game at least 4-6 days a week on a computer/console – we assume not constantly without sleep 🙂 ) had suffered from high ping (lag / latency) related connectivity issues and 45% said it had even lost them a match.

Overall, two thirds (66%) felt that the responsiveness of their internet connection – or that of other players – had interrupted their gaming experience at least once a week and 6 in 10 (60%) had been unable to enjoy a game due as a result.

Meanwhile 38% said their current connection would discourage them from adopting or participating in 4K gaming, while 45% thought it would inhibit them from getting involved in online tournaments and 34% said it would hold them back from exploring Virtual Reality (VR) gaming.

On top of that anybody who has had to download one of those 100GB+ digitally distributed monster sized games will know the pain of having to wait hours for the process to complete, during which time everything else can also slow to a crawl (video streaming etc.).

Naturally Cityfibre found that 85% thought their experience would improve if they had access to an ultrafast “full fibre” (FTTP / FTTH) broadband service. Mind you their survey doesn’t appear to have asked respondents for details of their current connection type, which could have added some useful context.

Mark Collins, CityFibre’s Director of Strategy, said:

“The UK is the fifth largest gaming market place in the world. The industry employs over 20,000 people, making it a multi-million-pound contributor to the UK economy.

It’s clear that gamers want better connectivity because it will give them negligible latency, symmetry of connection and great reliable speed. However, the current confusion around fibre advertising means that many will still be paying more for unreliable connection, as they seek the full-fibre gold standard but instead get a poor service that’s strangled by copper from the cabinet.”

As the limits of our aging infrastructure are reached, gamers will become increasingly frustrated with the services they are able to access. This could present a major threat to the sector’s ability to grow, and UK gamers’ ability to play. CityFibre is proud to support UK gamers and developers by building high speed full fibre networks in the UK, bringing us closer to a lag-free future.”

Cityfibre is right to point toward the frustration of long download times and it’s certainly true that FTTP connections can deliver much lower latency times, although there are a few caveats to consider here and that’s particularly true when considering the issue of connection latency.

Latency is a measure of the time (delay in milliseconds) that it takes for a single packet of data to travel from your computer to a third-party server and back again (aka – ping time). Most fast paced online multiplayer games generally like to have a ping time below c.60-80ms in order to run smoothly. The lower this figure, the better, although different games have different demands (latency isn’t really an issue for online chess etc.).

Note: 1000ms (milliseconds) = 1 second.

Your broadband connection type plays a big role in latency performance, although there are many other factors to consider too and simply blaming “copper broadband” isn’t entirely fair. Many years ago yours truly had an old 64Kbps ISDN line at home and that delivered latency times of 10-15ms, which still beats many modern superfast and even some ultrafast broadband connections today.

Personally I’ve never had a problem getting pings of around 35-50ms on ADSL or 20-40ms on FTTC lines and being able to enjoy smooth online gameplay (G.fast can do even better), although all networks (even FTTP ones) do sometimes suffer from routing / peering or other problems that can cause even the lowest of pings to spike, which disrupts play.

Since latency is a delay that must be calculated across the entire journey then it also needs to factor in external elements too, such as any delay being added via your home network (e.g. WiFi) and the remote server you’re trying to reach. Not to mention the impact of all those server hops on the way to and from the destination. Often you won’t get a good ping because the servers are simply too far away (e.g. in other countries) or aren’t very fast themselves and FTTP won’t stop that.

On the other hand hybrid fibre lines can sometimes struggle for latency in a busy family environment, where several users may be playing games or streaming content at the same time. This is particularly true if your package has limited upload performance, which can be a bigger issue on cheaper tiers.

As consumers increasingly move into a future where video games can be directly played via remote streaming (cloud) services, with resolutions rapidly rising from HD and into 4K, then the benefits of a full fibre connection will quickly become much more apparent. Nevertheless, as above, it would be wrong to blame copper lines for all things bad with multiplayer.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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28 Responses
  1. Avatar Mark

    I usually get 18-19ms on Plusnet FTTC to Blizzards servers. I don’t suffer any lag during downloads/anything heavy due to openwrts fantastic SQM (Smart Queue Management)!

    And our line isn’t the best!

    • Avatar Rubbish_Broadband_in_Fermanagh_and_South_Tyrone

      I get 57ms with Plusnet consistently, but I only have 4Mbit ADSL CTTP.

  2. Avatar FibreFred

    No lag on my FTTC

    Average ping is about 18ms, usually less.

    More desperation from Cityfibre, where the responders on Wifi? Pings to where? Others parts of the UK? US?

  3. Avatar A_Builder

    I’m no copper lover but the FTTC where I am sitting just did 74/18 with 5ms and jitter .41.

    Similarly the GFast connection we have elsewhere gives 285/49 with 4ms.

    Granted the copper runs are in both cases very short but it is possible to engineer the digital backhaul to give good results.

  4. Avatar FibreFred

    “Many years ago yours truly had an old 64Kbps ISDN line at home and that delivered latency times of 10-15ms”

    Me too, went from a modem to ISDN and got referred to as a LPB on Wireplay 🙂

    • Avatar Joe

      Its a while since I’ve heard the old LPB/HPW terms 😉

      Certainly the gaps between all the tech now are much narrower than in the old days in my 33k modem -v- t1s. Although to be fair you could, with high skill, use predictive shots in games like quake to allow for the latency.

      (just dug out my old q1/2/3 folder from the UK leagues/cup competitions….ah..nostalgia!)

    • I recall the days of dialup, where having a ping of 150ms in Quake was still considered good and 200ms+ was a bit more normal, albeit a bloody awful mess of warping 🙂 . You had to predict where to shoot based on the lag everybody else was experiencing. Turn based combat style.

    • Avatar Joe

      I suspect it helped that these old games assumed lag/latency in ways the modern ones just don’t/can’t be bothered to. Subjectively the feel is worse/different now on games if the connection is not spot on…

  5. Avatar dee.jay

    I have two FTTC connections and both are sub 18ms ping on any traceroute out of my network.

    I get 69-70 on each connection, I can’t complain – because there’s no alternative. Oh, dial up is the only other choice. Do they still have dial up these days?

    Also, lol at the “LPB” comments above, I remember those days.

    • Avatar Simon

      No – no racks for dialup anymore

    • Avatar Sara

      Where i work we use londonweb.net/index.cfm?asset_id=1450 which comes with backup mobile and dialup internet. The company joined them back around 2013 when BT stopped providing dialup solutions. Dialup while obviously useless for gaming nowadays does still exist just like fax machines still do and for emergency use in day to day business for things which are low bandwidth like sending and replying to emails it is still incredibly useful.

  6. Avatar JamesMJohnson

    The issue with FTTC is that Openreach use interleaving to correct an unstable line.
    Depending on the scale of the issue, interleaving can quadruple+ the base latency.
    Latency isn’t raisable as a fault and it’s upto the discretion of the ISP if they raise it with Openreach.
    I’ve seen my latency fluctuate between 12-60ns (minimal interleaving vs my intermittant issue), the default trip to New York is about 80-90ns and whilst you’re correct about what servers like for latency, you can normally safely half your ping based latency as time sensitive traffic normally runs over UDP… which doesn’t expect a response packet (so it’s one way).
    The issue then comes when your connection routes from New York or New Jersey to the data centers in the US… factor in interleaving on your base connection and then you can have issues.
    (Note : Ping is ICMP and as such is a low priority protocol. It should be used as a test for presence or route, not for latency or jitter as it can yield variable results… by all means use it as a starting point for diagnosis but don’t use the results as proof)

  7. Avatar Stu

    In my house I ran an fttp from BT, an FTTC from zenInternet and a hyperoptic 1gb fttp connection

    Ping times are

    Hyperoptic: 2ms
    BT fttp: 18ms
    Zen asks fttc: 12ms

    Tells you everything you need to know

    • Avatar Harmeet

      I assume you’re in London then. Hyperoptics peering and routing isn’t very good outside of London. I’m in Birmingham, and all of my traffic routes from Birmingham, to Manchester, to London before continuing to its destination.
      It’s impossible for me to get a ping below 8ms, but most CDNs, Netflix, Google, AWS, and bbc.co.uk give me a ping of 11-12ms consistently (all wired).

      My inlaws, on the otherhand, have FTTC in North London, granted they’re very close to the cab, but pings to the same domains achieve 7-8ms, and thats over wifi!

      I’m surprised your BT FTTP is so high though, that doesnt really make much sense.

    • Avatar Ivor

      I have BT FTTC. My ping to London-based sites is 6ms. Friends in the same town, on BT FTTP, have virtually the same latency to the same sites – 1ms variance at best.

      A decent FTTC connection is not a barrier to good online gaming.

      Unless you have very, very deep pockets, how do you have Openreach FTTC, Openreach FTTP on Demand, and Hyperoptic in the same property?

    • Avatar AndyH

      He’s trolling because you will not find a single house in the UK that has FTTP, FTTC and Hyperoptic’s service.

      In case of any doubt about BT’s FTTP service:

      ubnt@ubnt:~$ ping bbc.co.uk
      PING bbc.co.uk (151.101.0.81) 56(84) bytes of data.
      64 bytes from 151.101.0.81: icmp_req=1 ttl=58 time=4.51 ms
      64 bytes from 151.101.0.81: icmp_req=2 ttl=58 time=4.36 ms
      64 bytes from 151.101.0.81: icmp_req=3 ttl=58 time=4.22 ms

  8. Avatar Simon

    Well stop going on with surveys and change that – get it installed in every town you can!

    Talk is cheap amigos

  9. Avatar Marty

    Full fibre lines are more of an advantage for people who have them I’d say. I’ve managed to get 10ms on copper on FTTC on a good day with port forwarding to specific servers. Going wired even wrapping the ADSL cable with copper tape in the vain attempt to lower EMI.

  10. Avatar Ivor

    Another day, another Cityfibre “survey”.

    There is a case to be made for higher speeds, but “I need my games to download a bit more quickly” is not a good one, neither is latency (not when FTTC can also be low latency and a ropey wifi or powerline connection can screw it all up)

    Perhaps they should concentrate on actually connecting some gamers to a “full fibre” service, instead of pointless stuff like this?

  11. Avatar J. L

    I’m in western Canada but I’ve seen optimized VDSL setups get single digit first hop ping times, requires a short line in good health though.

    I’m on FTTP and get 0.5-1ms first hop

  12. Avatar Brian

    Speedtest gives me 53ms ping with 95ms jitter on 3mb ADSLmax. TBB just gives 103ms ping

  13. Avatar Simon

    I have PlusNet FTTC on FastPath (Vigor 130 modem) and I get 5-6ms to bbc.co.uk from North London and about 4ms to the first PlusNet router so no latency problems here on FTTC.

  14. Avatar Muhammad Rakush

    Who cares what they said

    they don’t even offer a service for home users (yet)

    till they do please do one.

    • Avatar Harmeet

      They’re running a campaign to block FTTP/DOCSIS hybrid-fibre lines from being advertised as “Fibre”. Considering they’re spending hundreds of millions of pounds on full fibre solutions throught the UK (which, with the help of partners, will and do offer services to home users), it’s definitely in their interest to establish a need for full fibre FTTP/H and have the general public know about the advantages.

      That being said though, this survey is still BS!
      One complaint is about latency, and high pings causing laggyness in games: FTTP Latencey isn’t necessarily improved compared to FTTC or DOCSIS, it massively depends on routing and peering.
      It then goes on to say the survey indicated a bad connection would discourage 4k gaming… What? whether you game in 4k or 360p, you internet connection will make no difference what so ever!
      Online gaming generally has very low bandwidth requirements, which again would work perfectly fine with FTTC/DOCSIS. Yes game updates can be big and require large downloads, but this isnt exclusive to ONLINE gaming, and DOCSIS or G.Fast with FTTdp could deliver 1gbps, which is the most any residential FTTP connection offers in the UK anyway.
      The last argument about cloud gaming, and affectively streaming your game, would definitely need a cabable connection, but bitrates top out arround 25mbps for 4k, which 97%(?) of the country already has access to anyway.

    • Avatar Ferrocene Cloud

      Harmeet, DSL and DOCSIS still have inherently higher latency which you don’t have to worry about with PON/FTTP. It’s true that it depends on peering and routing, but it’s a bit disingenuous to not recognise that FTTP is better. You’ve also got less chances of errors compared to DOCSIS / DSL because it’s an optical medium, which all helps.

      DOCSIS 3.1 should hopefully massively reduce latency at least. With DSL you’ve got considerations like interleaving as well.

    • Avatar CarlT

      DOCSIS 3.1 is not going to massively reduce latency. At the moment nearly all the deployments are using 3.0 upstreams and even 3.1 are about more bandwidth rather than lower latency. Still have the request – grant – transmit cycle. The Active Queue Management in 3.0 and optionally 3.1 is intended to reduce buffer bloat.

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