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The Best and Worst Broadband Areas in England for Gamers.. Not Quite

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2020 (1:52 pm) - Score 1,576

Comparison site Comparethemarket.com has posted a new study, which they claim shows the top 10 best and worst Areas in England for gamers. Overall Hull comes top due to its speed of 137Mbps and a 99% availability of “superfast broadband“, while Central Devon sits bottom on 34Mbps and 77%. But key details have been overlooked.

Naturally broadband speed and the availability of faster networks are a vitally important consideration for anybody looking at new ISP options or locations for a new home, but the actual act of multiplayer gaming itself is dependent upon various other key factors that, oddly, aren’t even considered by the new study.

NOTE:Superfast” isn’t defined in the study but it usually means downloads of 24-30Mbps+. Likewise “decent broadband” isn’t defined, but it usually means 10Mbps+.

Bad broadband connectivity is a gamer’s worst nightmare. If you find yourself constantly freezing, repeatedly moving over the same area, or being kicked out of the game entirely, it ruins the whole experience. We crunched the data to find the areas in England that have the best and worst broadband, based on the average speed (Mbps), superfast availability, and the percentage of the area’s population unable to receive decent broadband,” said the study.

Sadly the comparison site fails to identify the source of their data, although we suspect they’re using Ofcom’s publicly available statistics (Connected Nations) and giving it a slightly different twist from the study they published in April 2020 (here). The result thus came out as follows.

Top 10 Worst Areas for Games

Rank Area Average speed (Mbps) Superfast availability Unable to receive decent broadband
1 Central Devon 34.05 77% 12%
2 Torridge and West Devon 34.01 81% 12%
3 Forest of Dean 31.61 79% 10%
4 Ludlow 33.09 81% 11%
5 Penrith and The Border 36.01 81% 12%
6 North Herefordshire 35.09 80% 9%
7 Tiverton and Honiton 31.89 81% 9%
8 Harwich and North Essex 37.06 83% 9%
9 Somerton and Frome 42.75 82% 10%
10 Cities of London and Westminster 34.41 75% 0%

Top 10 Best Areas for Gamers

Rank Area Average speed (Mbps) Superfast availability Unable to receive decent broadband
1 Kingston upon Hull East 137.44 99% 1%
2 Kingston upon Hull North 132.15 100% 1%
3 Kingston upon Hull West and Hessle 122.24 99% 2%
4 Crawley 88.40 99% 0%
5 Filton and Bradley Stoke 93.49 98% 1%
6 Luton North 84.10 100% 0%
7 Morecambe and Lunesdale 87.70 99% 0%
8 Great Grimsby 89.56 98% 1%
9 Stevenage 86.93 99% 0%
10 Gillingham and Rainham 86.61 99% 0%

At issue here is the fact the multiplayer gaming itself is actually a very low bandwidth service because the netcode and data packets need to be as lightweight as possible in order to deliver the smoothest performance. Certainly having a fast download speed is a big help with receiving the latest software updates, but the gameplay side tends to be more dependent upon factors such as latency, packet loss / jitter and upload speed.

As such it’s perfectly possible to play even many modern multiplayer games, provided the software is already on your device and up-to-date, using even an old copper ADSL broadband line (heck even ancient ISDN would probably be fairly smooth, thanks to its fast latency response). Admittedly having a minimum upload speed of 1Mbps is wise but they’ll often work with a fair bit less.

At the end of the day your latency (ping times) depend most of all on the capabilities and stability of the physical connection technology itself (e.g. ADSL, FTTP, FTTC), as well as remote server performance (e.g. the server for the game you’re connecting to) and your own local network setup. A good routing / peering arrangement at your ISP also helps (i.e. fewer server hops) and so does maintaining an uncongested network.

The real problem here is that doing an accurate comparison of such factors between different ISPs and areas would be incredibly difficult and prone to a high degree of error (too many different factors involved). But suffice to say, multiplayer gaming performance is about more than just download speed.

Leave a Comment
13 Responses
  1. Avatar Mark

    Ping and jitter is pretty much all you need to worry about. I have a friend who is on virgins highest tier speeds but often gets kicked from games and parties because of the horendus ping and jitter spikes he suffers with them.

    • Avatar blueacid

      Absolutely correct – if you’ve got a steady and low ping, with no jitter and no packet loss, you’ll be fine.

      When you’re actually under way and gaming, even if you’re chatting on discord, you’ll probably find you’re using under 1mbit, so even 5mbit ADSL is enough. The only time I’ve needed high speeds when gaming has been to download the game or an update to it in the first place.

      Certainly when I was on Plusnet ADSL, wired up to my router, my pings were around 30msec, no packet loss, no jitter, it was far better than friends who had virgin media.

      …of course if you’re on FTTP or FTTB (as I’m lucky enough to be), then provided your ISP isn’t too congested, you’ll likely find you get the best of both worlds. High speeds for downloading the game, and low ping/jitter for when you’re actually playing.

  2. Avatar Bob

    Great article Mark, agree completely. Do you have any sources you can recommend for best ISP/connection type for gamers
    that include things like ping, packet loss and jitter ?

  3. Avatar Name

    Is it Devon where FTTP has been rolled out recently?

  4. Avatar GGigabitUK

    Hull lot of shit.. hull is 99% fibre they are still trying so hard to make more investments in Hull. Elsewhere in the UK things work in .1% of the speed.

  5. Avatar Matt

    It’s funny how the comparison websites try to make out like they understand the things they sell….

    Just stick to being a comparison site.

  6. Avatar Graham Long

    No surprise that Devon comes out so badly. The incompetence of Connecting Devon & Somerset is staggering having wasted 8 years, three failed procurement attempts and five cancelled contracts with full fibre provider Gigaclear for their Phase 2 rural superfast programme. CDS are now on their fourth attempt to secure contractors for their Phase 2 BDUK funded programme for which funding was allocated to them in 2012. CDS are very effectively turning Devon & Somerset into third world counties!

  7. Avatar jd

    In Westminster, yep rubbish ADSL. We have Vodafone 4G which refuses to connect to PSN or Switch online. Frustrated gamer here

  8. Avatar buggerlugz

    Would be interesting to see the correlation between broadband speeds and how good the actual gamers are. 🙂

    One could also argue that the reasons these areas are top is because those gamers can actually download a 100gb title to play it during the same 24 hours and not the same week, like a good proportion of the UK.

  9. Avatar moogle

    Virgin isn’t the best for latency. Depends on what gamer you are. Casual? Then perhaps it might be okay. But obviously it depends on how congested your area is.

    I switched from BT’s FTTP to Virgin and my thinkbroadband monitoring graph changed from a low latency, tightly coupled min, max and avg graph to a more spread out version.

    ADSL/VDSL is probably better for gamers in terms of pings, but not for the large downloads.

    The study or the test should have included ping and jitter comparisons as others have mentioned, as well as bufferbloat testing. It’s slightly annoying as the speedtest websites that collect this information can’t detect if someone is on WiFi or connected via Ethernet, so results will always be skewed and you can’t get accurate information unless you try it out yourself.

  10. Avatar Gary

    Picking apart these kind of surveys is hardly sporting Mark 🙂

    The focus on headline speeds has been a pet peeve of mine throughout the rise of the internet, but most people just don’t care.

    I’ve noticed the rise in the number of hops a traceroute takes to get to servers these days, I’m old btw and been playing online Since the mid 90’s Kali servers and OMG Meridian59.

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