The times you put a CD-ROM in the slot his computer or console, and then enjoying single player in the quiet little room are pretty much done. You know this yourself: without a reasonable network connection, you are not only stuck in multiplayer, but also looking down the drain by downloading ever-growing game and update files.
In fact, playing is synonymous with very good connectivity. Today we would like to explain everything you need to know about this topic. Both in general and in the direction of problem solving and prevention.
Disclaimer: The IT experts among you can forgive us if we have to shorten or oversimplify some things here for ease of understanding.
Basic concepts and terminology
What happens when you download a file from the Internet? Initially, it requests a data package that is on another computer. This is where the “network” part of the internet comes in: as you may know, the web is a gigantic (worldwide) network of billions of computers, all of which are connected to each other in different ways in a decentralized manner.
This means that if you give said other computer the signal “please send the file”, the following will happen with many common procedures:
- The sending computer splits this single large file into many small data packets. Behind this is the so-called Transmission Control Protocol (TCP). This is a worldwide network protocol. It standardizes the way computers exchange data with each other. This decomposition (called packet switching) is done because, among other things, it allows more efficient use of connection technology.
- Each data packet knows its IP and thus the network address, also in a nutshell. Also, each packet has an identity. Provides information about where you are in the general file.
- Packets take different routes through the Internet to you. This means, among other things, different terms.
- When it arrives, the data packets are reassembled into one large file according to their “ID”. And since everything is digital, it means “all or nothing”. If a single data packet is missing, the entire file cannot be assembled. In this case, a new request is started.
As I said: in a nutshell. But basically everything from visiting a website to downloading gigabyte-heavy games works this way.
Of course, how quickly this packet delivery works depends on the state and utilization of all network paths between your computer and the sender’s computer.
At the bottom, most customers on the web today use broadband digital access. Broadband means that a relatively wide frequency band (compared to previous technologies) is used to transmit the data. While this allows for a high data rate, it reduces the range of the signal before it physically weakens and needs to be amplified again.
your way to the internet
Other than a direct network connection between two computers, there is no such direct connection anywhere on the web. In fact, connectivity is characterized by a whole series of intermediate stations. Starting from your computer (or any other end device), it looks something like this:
- Switch box near your house (called Kabelverzweiger, KVz). They also usually include the digital subscriber line access multiplexer, DSLAM, a type of digital exchange dedicated to DSL connections.
- Broadband Remote Access Server (BRAS), where the connections of several KVz/DSLAM converge
- Backbone: The great data highways of the web, if you will.
Beyond the spine, everything runs in the opposite direction.
Regarding the connection between the computer and the router, you have two options: LAN cable or WLAN radio connection. We’ll show you more about the strengths and weaknesses of both options below.
That brings us to the next step for your network access. More precisely: the way your router is connected to the nearest KVz/DSLAM switch box. Most broadband connections use a digital subscriber line, better known as DSL.
The speed or bandwidth of your DSL depends on both the connection technology used and the rate you have booked. That means that only when its carefully compare rates and you select the fastest possible one in your direction, you get the speed that is actually technically possible on this line, depending on how many people also use this connecting line to the DSLAM.
A feature of DSL is that the data always goes over copper wires. However, these copper wires (ultimately thin telephone wires) have limited transmission speed. In reality, a DSL or Enhanced VDSL connection stops between 100 and 250 megabits per second (Mbit/s).
This makes two alternatives interesting:
- The cable television network. Download speeds of up to 1 gigabit per second (Gbit/s) are (theoretically) possible here, since more data can be transmitted over the coaxial cable used.
- A fiber optic line. It also delivers up to 1 Gbit/s. However, since the data is not transmitted in the form of electrical signals, but primarily as flashes of light, the susceptibility to interference is several powers lower. Also, the transmission rate can be increased in a much simpler way: only flashes of light need to be emitted in faster succession.
About FTTC, FTTD and why fiber optics is the future
A large number of connections beyond KVz have already been converted or will soon be converted to fiber optics. That is the main point when talking about the expansion of fiber optics in this country. Even the submarine data line between Europe and the USA. has been relying on this technology for several years, not on satellites, for example, because, among other things, signal propagation times are significantly longer with them.
In the medium term, you can therefore assume that all relevant internet connections will be via fiber optic lines. Like I said, they are more immune to interference, have higher upgrade potential, and are also more resistant to eavesdropping than copper wires.
However, with fiberglass there are quite a few shortcuts and procedures. In principle, it is always a question of how far (relative to your computer) fiber optic lines are used and from where other connection technologies are used accordingly. From the largest distance to the smallest, it looks like this:
- Fiber to the Curb (FTTC): Only its KVz is fed with fiber optics. the rest of the way goes through copper lines. Many VDSL tariffs use this approach.
- Fiber to the basement (FTTB): The connection between your house and the KVz is also secured with fiber optic lines. However, the individual apartments are again connected via copper lines, in the form of telephone, coaxial or network cables.
- Fiber to the Home (FTTH): The fiber optic cable leads directly to your living unit. If it is a single family house, then FTTH and FTTB are congruent.
- Fiber to the Desktop (FTTD): The silver bullet, where fiber optics ultimately guarantees all the distance to your end device or jack (unless you connect your computer directly to the router).
By the way, that doesn’t mean that fiber optics is the only “good” connection technology today. It is simply the one with by far the greatest potential for expansion.
Data rate and connection technology or: How much do you really need as a gamer?
All providers advertise that they guarantee you the best network access of all. And even if you “only” have DSL, such a claim doesn’t even have to be an empty advertising promise.
You can find out why by looking at the participant structure beyond your home. The actual size of your personal data rate largely depends on how many other Internet users are in your neighborhood. Logically: the more people send and retrieve data packets at the same time, the more “congested” the line is. This means that the realistically possible data rate is also a factor depending on the time of day.
Today, in times of expansion of fiber optics, it is best to be in densely populated areas where the expansion is most advanced. Take a look at the official broadband atlas and set the “Technology” filter to FTTB/H.
But what data rate should you book with the provider? After all, this is related to your cost level. Well, for a comfortable and carefree game, it should be a contract of 50 Mbit/s or more. Direct play generally consumes significantly less. However, you should never forget the large amount of data required to download the games, their updates, etc. Plus, higher volume gives you more safety reserves.
By the way, such a data rate allows you to use it in parallel without any problems. For example, you can play online at the same time while someone else in your household is streaming a series, or doing something similar that requires a lot of data.
By the way, you should always do a speed test on a computer (connected to the router by cable) using the official tool of the Federal Network Agency; preferably on different days and at different times of the day. Take good note of these data. Because if you permanently get less than contractually agreed, you are free extensive provider rights open.
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