These VPNs and ISPs could reduce your online gaming ping

South African online gamers frustrated by high latency while playing on foreign servers might benefit from using dedicated gaming Internet service providers (ISPs) or gaming-optimised virtual private networks (VPN).

Many popular online multiplayer games in South Africa don’t have large enough player bases for gaming publishers to justify rolling out local servers.

These include fast-paced first-person shooters like Apex: Legends, Fortnite, Overwatch 2, and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds.

The main benefit of a reputable VPN is that it redirects your traffic through one of its servers to mask your identity, enhancing privacy (provided the VPN provider is trustworthy).

This can be an important feature for those concerned that their online traffic might be under surveillance.

In most cases, this benefit will come with the downside of added latency due to the traffic needing to make an additional stopover.

The infographic below from Hostinger shows the basic difference between a connection that uses a VPN and one that doesn’t.

However, there are some gaming or performance-dedicated VPNs designed to direct traffic through the shortest possible routes.

ExitLag is one VPN provider specifically focused on this, but other well-known VPNs like ExpressVPN and Cyberghost offer similar services.

In countries where users are closer to their gaming services, even these VPNs are more likely to add latency unless their ISP’s routing is a mess.

These services are more likely to be of help in countries located far away from their most populated gaming servers — like South Africa.

Some ISPs in South Africa already route traffic optimally to ensure the lowest possible latency, but others might use longer routes with certain gaming servers.

Whether using a gaming-focused VPN will result in lower latency will depend on the routes your ISPs use to send traffic between your computer and a particular gaming server.

If it already has optimal routing, there will likely be little to no benefit.

There could also be improvements in some games and none whatsoever in others, as some routes might be optimised while others are not.

MyBroadband spoke to South African gamers who used ExitLag for online multiplayer to learn if the services offered any benefit.

One of the users was a Durban resident on a fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) package with RSAWeb on Vumatel’s network.

He saw a marked improvement of around 30ms when playing Escape from Tarkov on a European server, taking his latency down from about 215-225ms to 185-195ms.

While this was only about a 14% reduction, it can make a significant difference in a game where fractions of a second can mean the difference between killing an enemy and getting killed.

The other user was a Rain customer in Pretoria, who said he had a negligible improvement in latency.

Gaming-focused ISPs

There are also ISPs and ISP products in South Africa aimed specifically at gamers who want reduced latency in online gaming.

Two examples of this are Clearaccess’s Quark service and UrbanX.

The latter explains that it has direct peering agreements and partnerships with major gaming companies to ensure stable and fast traffic flow between its fibre connections and international servers.

It also has minimal contention at its network-to-network interfaces and consistently monitors latency.

Both Quark and UrbanX have dedicated pages showing the latest latencies between their customers and international servers for various popular online games.

The infographic below shows these latencies on some popular games for UrbanX customers in the Johannesburg region.

Another ISP with a reputation for being gamer-friendly is Cool Ideas.

It has capacity on the fibre pair on the West Africa Cable System that connects directly from South Africa to Europe.

Cool Ideas also offers ingest relays for popular game streaming platforms Twitch and Kick.

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These VPNs and ISPs could reduce your online gaming ping