Reducing Lag on Busy Home Networks (Multiple Gamers/Streamers)


Gaming

We have already covered in other article how latency is the crucial factor over and above bandwidth in reducing lag for online gaming, as well as various methods to reduce lag. However throughout most of our articles we have assumed it is just one gamer and one games console in any one house that we need to optimize the connection for.

What happens when you have multiple online gamers in the same house, for instances siblings or friends in shared houses, who all like to game online at the same time? Or just a busy home network in general, with lots of users connecting via Wi-Fi or LAN for streaming, downloading, browsing, Skype etc?

Whilst the general principles for reducing lag with multiple games consoles is the same as with one console, we have picked out some specific settings and steps to take to make sure all consoles in a house get equally strong connections and priority in a home network.

Here are some steps to reduce lag on crowded and congested home networks:

  • Make sure all gamers are on wired connections if possible. Use powerline adapters if a direct ethernet connection is not possible.
  • Quality of Service (QoS) settings to prioritize all games consoles on the home network.
  • Use Port Forwarding for all consoles via UPnP or DMZ settings can help to make sure all gamers in a house can play online smoothly.

Let’s look at each of these in more detail steps below.

Make Sure All Games Consoles Are On A Wired Connection

As we have covered elsewhere, wired connections are always superior to wireless ones for gaming for a number of reasons. Firstly, wired connections do not suffer from the signal degradation through distance and passing through obstacles that Wi-Fi signals do, and so deliver an inherently stronger more reliable connection to begin with.

Secondly, wired ethernet connections can work on a full duplex system, meaning they can send and receive data simultaneously with no delay, whereas Wi-Fi only works on half duplex, meaning it can only send OR receive data at any point in time but not both, and only to one device at a time.

In other words, data transmission to devices on a home network is sequential or queue based in Wi-Fi, whereas it can be simultaneous and bi-directional to wired ethernet connected devices.

Thirdly, and related to the second point, each wired connection to a router through an ethernet port represent a dedicated, uncluttered communications channel to the router for the device that is connected.

By contrast all Wi-Fi connected devices have to share the same “space” in terms of the RF band that wireless signals are sent over, which can result in network congestion the more devices are connected wirelessly. Dual band Wi-Fi has helped with this but it can still be a problem.

All of these factors combine to ensure that wired connections are far better for online gaming than wireless ones, as they just deliver a stronger, faster, more solid and reliable connection to the router than Wi-Fi can, especially over distance.

If this is true for one gaming device, it is even more true when you have multiple consoles in the same house.

This is why it is important for all gamers on a home network to be on wired connections for their consoles if they all want to game without lag, as wired connections will not suffer from the same congestion problems that Wi-Fi does.

If two gamers in a house are playing online at the same time and one is on a wired connection and the other on wireless, it is highly likely that the one on wireless will suffer lag problems, especially if other devices besides the consoles are also using the internet.

The gamer on the wired connection has a dedicated full duplex channel to the router and so will receive their data faster, whereas the Wi-Fi connected console has to “queue up” on the wireless network and may have to wait in line for other wireless devices to be sent their traffic first.

Router Ethernet Ports Wired Connections

All gamers ideally need to be plugged into the router directly to avoid lag, especially on busy home networks

This means that wireless connections will almost always come off second best against wired connections when trying to reduce latency or lag.

For this reason all consoles in a house need to be on a wired ethernet connection if used for online gaming. This gets more and more difficult the further a console is from the router; however long ethernet cables are available which can be run down stairs or through walls or floors if people are motivated (or allowed!) to do so.

Click here to view some longer ethernet cables on Amazon.

Powerline Adapters for Gamers Further Away From the Router

If running long ethernet cables through the house to reach the router is not possible, then a Powerline Adapter is a brilliant alternative solution that will give you a strong wired connection without having to use long ethernet cables. They can give you all the benefits of a wired connection without the need for any trailing cables or DIY.

They consist of a pair of adapter plugs, one of which you connect to your router and the other to your device, and the two plugs then communicate through the house’s existing electrical wiring to create a wired internet connection without the need for running long ethernet cables through the house.

How a Powerline Adapter Works

Powerline Adapters – Quick Intro Video

 

TP Link TL-PA 4010 Kit Nano Powerline Adapter

TheTP Link Nano TL-PA4010 Kit model is an entry level, best selling no nonsense powerline adapter model with just one ethernet port and no passthrough. Click here to view on Amazon. It will provide a solid, wired ethernet connection to your router using the existing electrical wiring of your house. See our full review of the product and our Powerline Adapters page. Our Product Comparison Table compares all the wired and wireless powerline adapter models at a glance by feature and functionality.

Powerline adapters usually come in pairs so more sets will be needed to accommodate more gamers and consoles but the good news is that almost all modern TP Link models are universally cross compatible so different models can work together as long as they are the same brand. See our product comparison table for a full rundown of all the cross compatible TP link products.

Purchasing two pairs or sets for example will provide for 3 connections for three separate gamers anywhere you want in the house.

It is also very easy to add additional powerline adapters to an existing network; the newer models are pretty much always “plug and play” and will automatically connect to the other adapters as soon as they are plugged in.

Prioritize Your Consoles on Your Router Using Quality of Service Settings

Another way of managing congestion on busy home networks is by using Quality of Service (QoS) settings if available on your router. This involves assigning different priority levels to different devices connected to your router to make sure devices which need their traffic dealt with first are dealt with immediately by the router before anything else which is not so latency sensitive.

We have already gone into detail on how to configure Quality of Service settings, so for more details and a detailed run down of how to do it please see our full article on the topic.

Here are the very quick steps to configure QoS:

  • Find the MAC address of your games console in Connection Settings/Status
  • Log into your router (type 192.168.0.1 or 192.168.1.1 into any browser, plus the router password)
  • Find QoS Settings if they are available
  • Select your PS4 using the MAC address you found earlier.
  • Set the priority to Highest or Maximum.
  • QoS is not available on all routers.
  • See the linked article for more detailed steps.

It basically involves logging into your router using the 192.168.x.x format (0.1 and 0.2 are most common for the last two digits) and password, finding QoS settings, inputting any devices by MAC/IP address and setting their priority to “highest” or “maximum” if they need priority on the home network.

The process for multiple consoles is pretty much the same; just add each console by MAC/IP address and make sure they are all set to highest priority and other devices are set to a lower priority level in order of how much bandwidth they use. Generally streaming devices need more priority and general browsing devices need a lesser priority on home networks.

This basically tells your router to process traffic to your games consoles first, reducing the likelihood of lag for each of them as long as they are all on the same priority level. Of course too many consoles on a home network may overwhelm the router even with QoS enabled. It is difficult to say how many consoles is “too many” on a home network, but having Qos enabled will give you the best chance of avoiding lag.

Unfortunately, while very useful for busy home networks, Quality of Service settings are not available on all routers; in fact annoyingly many major ISPs do not offer QoS as standard on their routers when there are many scenarios such as this where QoS can come in very useful. If QoS settings are not available then you can resort to our third option of port forwarding for all consoles.

Quality of Service Settings in Action

Implement Port Forwarding For All Consoles Using UPnP or DMZ

An excellent way of speeding up traffic to and from games consoles is to use port forwarding for each individual console, which basically instructs your router to forward all traffic to your console without any filtering or checks as it would normally do for other devices. This reduces the delays in data transmission and therefore can help to reduce lag.

There are actually several ways you can do this, which we have laid out in a detailed article on the topic. For example it is possible to manually port forward for each individual console, but this is a difficult and time consuming process. For houses with multiple games consoles we prefer to easier methods of UPnP and DMZ settings, which we will look at now.

Method 1 – Enable Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) settings on Your Router

The first method is perhaps the easiest to quickly apply for forwarding to all ports and all devices on your home network, and simply requires that you log in to your router (type 192.168.0.1 or similar in your address bar and enter router password) and make sure Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) settings are enabled. Many ISP routers have UPnP set to “on” by default anyway.

This automatically applies port forwarding to all devices on a home network, including your games consoles, speeding up traffic delivery and hopefully reducing latency.

For this reason it is an excellent “set and forget” method to apply port forwarding to multiple consoles with one quick settings change and is perfect for people who don’t want want to be messing around too much with complex router settings.

There have however been some safety concerns around using UPnP settings, though in fairness many of them are old concerns from a decade or more back which have since been patched. In addition newer technologies have become better at safely implementing UPnP and so it should not be a problem to use with modern equipment.

See our article on port forwarding methods for more details.

Method 2 – Places Your Games Console into the DMZ Zone on Your Router

In any event you can avoid any of the security issues with using UPnP by using our next method of DMZ, as it allows you to selectively use port forwarding to just your games consoles and not all devices indiscriminately on a home network as UPnP does.

DMZ stands for Demilitarized Zone and in this context it just means an area on your router in which devices can be placed, and the router will then automatically port forward to all devices you manually place in this DMZ.

This means you can pick and choose which devices use port forwarding, which is arguably a little safer than using UPnP which automatically includes all devices connected to a router.

To use DMZ simply log in to your router as before, find DMZ settings, add all your games consoles by the IP/MAC address (find these on Connection Settings/Status menus) to the DMZ zone and then save changes and exit.

See our full article for a full guide on how to use DMZ. Here are the quick steps:

      • Get the MAC address of your console (Connection Settings/Status).
      • Log into your router by typing it’s IP address in any browser (often 192.168.0.1 or 192.168.1.1) and the password.
      • Find DMZ Settings under Security or Advanced or similar.
      • Enter or select your console’s MAC address and to place it in the DMZ.
      • Save settings and close.

This now means that your router will automatically forward all traffic to whatever games consoles you have placed into this DMZ area without any filtering or checks, reducing delays and hopefully lag.

This is not recommended for other devices but is fine for games consoles as they do not have the same security vulnerabilities as other devices like PCs and laptops do.

They cannot get viruses in the same way other devices can as they can only download certain content through secure channels controlled by the console manufacturers.

This is an excellent way to easily port forward only to specific devices on a home network, providing the advantages of forwarding without the safety concerns of having other devices exposed to unfiltered traffic.

However, on some routers you can only place one device into the DMZ, making it a less effective method if you have multiple gamers under one roof. However, if you are a single gamer on a home network with other demands for streaming/browsing etc, it can be a useful setting to use.

As we concluded in our main article on the subject, it is our preferred method of port forwarding, whether for one games console or multiple consoles, as it is very easy to do but also allows you to apply the settings to specific devices only and not a whole network.

Oliver

Online gamer and general home networking enthusiast. I like to create articles to help people solve common home networking problems.

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