Tech

Keep your fibre internet going during load shedding - here's how much it costs

Business Insider SA

Load shedding
(Getty)
  • You can keep your fibre internet online during load shedding for a capital outlay of less than R1,000.
  • If you don't live in the wrong sort of neighbourhood, that is.
  • For a little extra, you can also keep some other electronics going during load shedding.
  • Popular UPS units are now also more expensive than last year - but there's a wider selection of entry-level options.
  • For more stories, go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

South Africa has been hit by a renewed bout of rolling blackouts, with load shedding escalated to stage 4 this week. 2021 is also on track to be one of the country's worst years for load shedding.

Those still working from home have found that relying on mobile phones for internet connectivity during load shedding can be frustrating - mobile towers are not reliable during power outages. Mobile data costs are also significantly higher than those for fixed fibre lines in homes.

If you are working from home on a laptop with the battery power to get you through the two to four hours of scheduled power outages, it may then be worth considering a relatively small investment to keep your fibre internet connection going during load shedding too. A small, plug and play DC UPS for your fibre connection, that will get you through two hours of load shedding at a time, shouldn't cost you more than R900.

But the news is not all good, depending on your setup, says Clayton Vosloo, the product manager for uninterruptible power supply (UPS) systems at ElectroMechanica, a company that primarily provides the corporate and industrial sector with various power solutions.

If you live in a housing estate, and you don’t have a passive “Optical Network Terminal (ONT)“ box inside your house, you might not have an easy plug and play solution.

"With fibre in some housing estates, you have an ONT box on the outside that controls the fibre coming into your house,” says Vosloo. “From that ONT box, it comes inside your house to a router, that provides you with a connection to the internet.”

If you only have access to the router, powering this up with a UPS won’t keep the ONT box outside powered up - unless you cable up an extension into the back of the UPS and to the ONT box outside – which is most likely a job for a professional electrical company, and could upset your body corporate too. 

Fortunately, Vosloo says the majority of new in-home fibre installations have ONT boxes inside - and it's possible to keep this and your powered on with relatively small capital outlay.

“As long as you’re able to use battery power to keep both of them powered up, you’ll likely be able to run a fibre connection throughout load shedding - it just depends on where that ONT box is, and where your router is,” says Vosloo.

Installation of a mini UPS that can keep these ticking over is a simple plug and play process - and depending on what else you need to power up, and how much you’re willing to spend, you might be able to keep other electronics running at the same time.

Although some cheap mini UPS devices may do the trick for part of load shedding, Vosloo recommends nothing smaller than a 1 kilo volt-ampere (KVA), or 1000VA, UPS. Generally speaking, the more you pay, the more battery power you'll get, and the longer your UPS will last.

Online stores have dozens of options available at 650va or less, but Vosloo cautions that these may be too lightweight to even keep just a fibre line going for a decent amount of time.

“Opting for a 1000va UPS means you’ll have an additional internal battery inside to give you more backup time - but it obviously costs a little bit more,” he says.

A basic unit that meets these minimum requirements typically costs between R800 and R3,000, depending on the brand, additional features, noise levels, and included accessories like cables.

Many UPS devices may also need a separate IEC adaptor, or kettle plug, to power up your internet devices.

If that sounds like too much work, a DC UPS is an easier and far cheaper solution - but it won't power up much more than your router, ONT box, and maybe a phone, for more than two hours. Although this route is typically the cheapest and easiest for keeping your fibre running through power outages it's important to make sure all power cables into and out of your UPS, router, and ONT box are the correct size to avoid having to buy often hard-to-find convertors.

Here are some of the UPS options to keep your fibre internet connection going during load shedding and other power outages.

Mecer 1000VA Line Interactive UPS

Eaton 1100VA Line-Interactive UPS

  • Takealot (4.2 stars, 19 reviews): R1,599
  • Geewiz: (3.7 stars, 3 reviews): R1663
  • Loot (3 stars, 2 reviews): R1,594

Vizia WiFi UPS Multi-Volt 12-24V Battery Power Bank WiFi Router

  • Takealot (4.4 stars, 104 reviews): R1,399

Gizzu 8800mAh Mini UPS Dual DC

UltraLAN Micro UPS (DC & PoE) - 45W 8.8AH

This article has been updated to reflect the latest bout of load shedding as well as updated pricing.

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