In context: Internet Service Provider Cox introduced their “Elite Gamer” service as a limited trial run in Phoenix and Tuscan, Arizona this week. While claims of lower latency and smoother gaming are appealing, Cox is struggling to justify the extra $15 per month it costs when they can’t put their finger on quite how it works.
According to Cox, Elite Gamer services reduce lag by 34%, jittering by 45% and latency by 55%, provided the criteria in the fineprint are met: it’s used on only two devices, used for specific servers for specific games (including Fortnite, Overwatch and Apex Legends) and added to an existing Cox plan with support for 100 Mbps or higher.
What Elite Gamer services does not do is increase connection speeds, prioritize internet traffic or use different networking equipment. Supposedly, it takes the messy indirect route that a signal is traveling down and cuts out the middleman between computer and server, resulting in a physically shorter pathway that goes through less potentially congested network stations. It's only active while gaming, and other network traffic is routed normally.
“The Cox Elite Gamer Service uses an intelligent server network to route your game connection. Our service focuses on creating the best connection possible for gaming, and only gaming! If you care about your connection and want the best online experience possible, then you NEED to be a Cox Elite Gamer!”
What’s unclear is how Cox can magically smooth out a connection. Have they just been short-changing their other customers with poor network optimizations? And more importantly, what can they do that other ISPs don’t?
“Following the consumer trial, we’ll evaluate results and determine next steps.”
There’s evidence to suggest that smoother network paths can be found, with speed benefits attached. Certain Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) do increase speeds, and faster Domain Name System (DNS) databases do improve latency. In both those cases, however, separate hardware is used, which is something Cox isn’t doing.
Despite the large percentages Cox is throwing around (which only improve things if you’re noticing significant latency anyways) it’s hard to believe that Elite Gamer services offer anything remotely worth $15 per month.
“Following the consumer trial, we’ll evaluate results and determine next steps,” Cox said to Motherboard.