3G/4G Ping Times/Latency: Can You Improve Your Ping?

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Wednesday, 18 June 2014

3G/4G Ping Times/Latency: Can You Improve Your Ping?

The struggle

We’ve all experienced it. The moment when the game hangs in the balance, and a split second decision can be the difference between your character’s life and death. These moments are what make video games so exciting, but oh so frustrating when suffering from high ping.

What is ping?

Ping (or latency) is essentially the time (in milliseconds) it takes for a packet of data to travel from your computer, to the online server you’re connected to, and back. Having a low ping is important for a number of activities, including Voice over IP (VoIP) phones and online gaming. For VoIP, businesses rely upon a relatively low ping in order to avoid delays in conversation. Ping issues are most prevalent in certain genres of online games, where even the slightest delays can ruin the experience for players. Some of these genres include Real Time Strategy (RTS), First Person Shooter (FPS), and Multiplayer Online Battle Arenas (MOBA). It is no coincidence that these are the most common genres in competitive and professional gaming, where every second matters.

What factors affect ping times?

Considering ping is dependent upon the travel time of data, your ping or latency is largely determined by your physical distance from the server you are connected to. Many popular online games have regional servers around the world. In general, connecting to the closest server will return the lowest ping speeds. If you are located in the U.S. and playing on European servers, your ping will most likely be significantly higher, and your delay longer.

Your ping will also depend on the kind of internet connection you are using. Below is a list of typical in-game pings that can be expected based on type of connection:

Satellite: 750 - 2000 MS

3G Wireless: 100 - 350 MS

4G Wireless: 50-150 MS

DSL: 50-125 MS

Cable: 25-75 MS

*numbers gathered from a variety of personal and written sources

These ping times can change depending on server distance, server health, area-congestion and your bandwidth. It is possible to have great download/upload speeds with a high ping. Usually this is an issue of physical distance from the server.


How can I improve my ping on a mobile broadband connection?

This a question that 3GStore employees often receive. The difficult answer is that it will vary a lot from person to person. Improving your signal through the use of an antenna or wireless repeater kit COULD help, but not always (ping time is not always affected by signal strength - see more below). Try connecting to a different server if you have that option. Are there other users on your network? Perhaps your bandwidth is being limited by others.

It’s also important to be aware of what type of pings you can expect from 3G or 4G (see list above) - if the pings you’re seeing are within the expected range for your connection type, there’s not going to be much (if anything) you can do to improve the situation.

Will an antenna/amplifier improve my ping?

Possibly, but ping times don’t tend to be impacted much by signal strength. You can easily confirm by going closer to the tower where your signal is better and comparing your ping time there - if it’s consistently better at the location with better signal, you’ll know that improving your signal will help with your ping time. For more information on testing your signal strength, see our Site Survey information.

Will a router help improve my ping?

No. Your ping should be the same directly from a modem as it would be going through a router and modem combination.

Can I game on a 3G connection?

Yes, but depending on the online game it may not be ideal. If there is 4G/LTE service in your area, upgrading to that would improve your ping. You can read more about gaming over 3G or 4G in our gaming article.

How can I play games with my friends if I have high ping?

Have a LAN party! When playing over LAN you are directly connected to the server.

Last Updated ( Monday, 20 July 2015 )
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