Loadshedding and WiFi: How to keep the internet on when the power goes off
Loadshedding is back with a vengeance as South Africans struggle once again to find (constructive) things to do in the hours of darkness.
In a time of a pandemic, social distancing and remote work, internet connection has gone from a nice-to-have to an essential. It has become the only way to keep in contact with family and friends and having no internet can really throw a spanner in the works.
But why does the line drop when the power goes off?
Those with a fixed-line connection are too familiar with WiFi dropping when loadshedding strikes. That’s because of the Optical Network Terminal (ONT). The ONT is the box against the wall. That and the router both need power to keep the internet going.
However, there is a way to keep your WiFi on during loadshedding. It's worth noting that it depends on your fibre network and ISPs’ ability to keep the connection running on their side during the blackouts. With regards to the hardware, it’s not that hard to set up a load shedding-proof WiFi connection.
It all depends on which type of WiFi connection you have.
The fixed-line solution
The fixed-line solution is the trickiest internet connection to keep running during loadshedding. But with a few pieces of hardware, you can keep it running for a few hours.
If you’re on a fixed fibre connection, you’ll have an ONT, which your fibre provider installed and the router that you got from the ISP. You’ll need to power both of these during load shedding to have an active connection.
Invest in a UPS that fits your budget. A UPS is an uninterruptible power supply and they come in all sizes and compatibilities. The catch is, these are made to keep computers and larger hardware running, so they may not have the correct plug points for a router. More on that later…
The easiest but more pricey solution is to get a dedicated mini-UPS for a router/ONT, which means it’s got all the correct plug points and cables you’ll need for an easy and quick setup.
Expect to dish out anything from R1 200 upwards and but it is fairly easy to find online. These should keep your WiFi on for the expected 4 hours of load shedding.
Remember we mentioned UPS not having the correct plug points for a router and we said 'More on that later'? Well, you can tackle this with an IEC adapter. Using a PC UPS will work out cheaper if you go for a normal 600VA. For this setup to work, you will need to be able to connect the router and the ONT to the UPS. The extra money dished out for the adapter may be worth it as you can get up to 10 hours running the router configuration. However, you’ll need more technical know-how to get the setup running.
You can also try installing an IPS — an internet power supply.
Of course, be advised you might run into some issues, such as the ISP not having backup power or different routers/ONT’s may have different power needs.
Desperate measures - Mobile data
If all else fails, turn to mobile data. Yes, it's a pain and it's precious data but mobile networks have been working around the clock to keep their towers on during load shedding with backup power.
Mobile routers (or MiFi devices) do not need to be plugged into a wall socket to run. Most of them have the capability to stay on for hours on one charge. You can also easily connect them to a power bank to recharge them.