If you're having connection problems when trying to play games online on Xbox One, there's a decent chance that your connectivity problem stems from your NAT type.
Having the wrong NAT type can result in slow speeds, lag, chat problems, and even being disconnected from online games entirely. Sadly there's no quick setting on the Xbox One to change your NAT type, but that doesn't mean it's impossible - here's what you need to do.
What is NAT?
NAT stands for Network Address Translation. This is essentially the process your router uses to connect devices to the internet. It's a necessary evil due to the nature of IP addresses, and IPv4 addresses in particular.
Let's explain: every device within a local network is assigned a unique IP address. They are combinations of 4 groups of up to 3 numbers.
There are approximately 4.3 billion different IP address combinations, but even that isn’t enough to ensure every device connected to the internet has its own unique address. To combat this, your Internet Service Provider (ISP) takes the IPv4 addresses from all the separate devices in your household and uses a single IP address for all.
This is where the confusion arises in your router as, from the outside, all connected devices will be seen to be using the same IP address.
This is where NAT comes to the router’s rescue. NAT is used to keep a log of every request made to the router from all connected devices. Once the request has reached the web and it responds to your router, NAT will then ensure it’s sent back to the correct device.
Issues arise with your connection when your ISP is strict with internet traffic, or if there are limitations on specific types of content being sent/received.
Your Xbox will automatically use UPnP in order to process an open NAT type. UPnP, or Universal Plug ‘n’ Play, essentially allows your Xbox to port forward automatically. This is great as it allows your console to communicate effectively with your router so that you can play Xbox Live on an Open NAT type without having to configure it yourself.
However, the implementation of UPnP on the Xbox One is flawed and therefore might not always give you the NAT type you need in order to connect with others online.
The different types of NAT
NAT Types are a way of categorising NAT. There are three types and each dictates how good an online experience you will have. You can usually see which NAT type you have in the pre-game lobby of online games, but if that's not an option, you can also find out by heading to the network settings on your console. We go into that in more detail later.
Below is a table where you will find the compatibility issues with differing NAT types and may explain why you're having problems connecting with other players.
Open NAT: This is the ideal NAT type. With an Open NAT, you should have no issue connecting to other players, as well as being able to chat and party up with players with no problem. You are also able to host multiplayer games with people of any NAT type.
Moderate NAT: While acceptable under most circumstances, it is by no means an ideal NAT type. With a moderate NAT type, you may find that your connection to games is slower, game lag may increase and in most circumstances, you won't be host.
Strict NAT: This is the worst NAT type available. You will only be able to connect with players who have an open NAT, and even then, you might have problems with chat and game connectivity. Game lag will be worse and you will often find yourself being disconnected during gameplay.
Oh, and it's worth noting that NAT will only affect peer-to-peer gaming, so if the game you are playing uses dedicated servers - a bit of a niche these days, but still - NAT won't be the source of your connectivity issues.
How to check your NAT type on Xbox One
It’s fairly easy to check your NAT type on your Xbox One. Games like Call of Duty and FIFA will display your NAT type in the pre-game lobby, but if the information is unavailable, it can easily be found within the Xbox network settings menu.
Simply navigate to Home > Settings > Network Settings and your NAT type can be seen under ‘Current Network Status’.
Changing your NAT type on Xbox One
Unfortunately, there isn’t one-size-fits-all fix when it comes to NAT type issues, and you may have to access your router's admin settings in order to fix your current issue. Bear in mind that Xbox One connectivity can be temperamental, so even if you are able to change your NAT type to open, there is no guarantee that it will stay open forever.
There are a couple of fixes that Xbox One owners can try, though. As we mentioned before, your console uses UPnP to port forward. The problem is the UPnP reservations your Xbox creates with the router expire after a period of inactivity, as other devices request that ports be opened and held for them.
This is all done for compatibility and security reasons, which is great. Why? When a device requires access to the router again, it renegotiates the leases and the reservations are once again acquired.
The problem is your Xbox One requires a full reboot in order for this to happen. If you have the ‘Instant On’ option enabled for your console, this will bypass any sort of reset your Xbox does when powering on. So, what should you do?
Turn off ‘Instant On’ and enable ‘Energy Saver’
By disabling ‘Instant On’ and enabling ‘Energy Saver’ your console will reboot every time you power on, and will, therefore, renew its UPnP leases. Unfortunately, this also means dealing with much longer startup times.
Hard Reset Method
If that doesn't work, try restarting your Xbox One console. To hard reset your Xbox One, press and hold the power button. Once rebooted, go back to network settings and re-test your multiplayer connection.
Hopefully your UPnP leases have been renewed and your NAT type now says ‘Open’ or at least ‘Moderate’.
If you have tried the above methods to no avail, re-test your multiplayer connection in network settings and once it finishes, hold LT + RT + LB + RB to access an ‘Advanced’ screen. Once here, your Xbox will attempt to renew its UPnP leases.
This process can take several minutes to complete, so be patient.
Manually assign a static IP address
If, after trying these solutions, you are still dealing with a Strict NAT type, you may have to manually assign your Xbox a static IP address and use your router's control panel to show your router where to find your console.
First, you will want to take note of your Xbox’s IP address, which can be found in Settings > Network Settings > Advanced Settings.
Once you have noted your console's IP address, you will need to log into your router's control panel.
There are, of course, many different control panels for all the different routers available, so for help regarding your hub manager, refer to your ISP’s website or alternatively use portforward.com. This website has a very large list of ISPs and has a guide for opening ports with the respective control panels.
If you're suffering from a different Xbox issue, you might want to check our guide to fixing the Xbox One 'black screen of death' and how to update Xbox One too.