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Broadband services to make online gaming better

October 19, 1998
Web posted at 12:10 PM EDT

by David Gerding



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(IDG) -- Five years ago, few gamers considered a modem compulsory gear. Today, the best gaming experiences require them. And it may be hard to believe, but the modem in your computer is the last of a dying breed. Even the new V.90 spec, the one that unifies the competing 56K standards, is the last of the mainstream analog-modem solutions. Looking forward, a trio of higher-speed, all-digital connections await: Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN), cable modems, and Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL). In three to five years, the analog modem may well be history.

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What ISDN, cable, and ADSL connections have in common is that they establish a purely digital connection with other PCs and servers. In contrast, today's analog modems are limited because they must convert the bits being sent by your PC into signals that can travel traditional phone lines, then they must convert the signals they receive into bits your PC handles. It's a messy process, and the result is limited bandwidth and high latency.

For gamers, the name of the game is high bandwidth and low latency. ISDN, cable, and ADSL offer lower latencies and higher bandwidth than traditional modems. A file that takes 5 minutes to download over a 28.8 modem connection would take a little under 2 minutes to download on ISDN, and only 8 seconds on a cable modem. Get one of these high-speed connections, and that Quake II server where you got an unplayable 400 ping with spikes galore via modem is now silky smooth, with an oh-so-lovely 5 ping.

The trouble is, these digital pipes are so cutting-edge that, depending on where you live, actually getting them installed in your home can vary from difficult to impossible.

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