🕯How To Keep Fibre Internet Online During Loadshedding


Last update: September 2020

Ever wanted to know about Fibre Internet during Loadshedding?

Can I still have access to Fibre during Loadshedding? Andrea F
Is there is still connection during loadshedding using a UPS or inverter? Aaron C
Do the Fibre Networks Operators infrastructure stay connected during Loadshedding? Bryan J B
In order to run my fibre line + Apple router for 1-2hrs during loadshedding, what would I need? Jason B
What do I need to just keep the ONT and router going? Luke H†

We are here to answer ALL YOUR QUESTIONS of:How to choose a UPS to keep your fibre going during LOADSHEDDING!

TL:DR

The short answer is YES. If you have backup power and nothing goes wrong with the backup power on the fibre networks you can enjoy fibre internet during loadshedding 🖥 🎮

In most cases there are two main types of UPS:

  1. The new Lithium-Ion DC UPS which plug directly into your ONT and Router like a battery pack, match the cables up and make sure you can recharge it. This is what the cool kids use.
  2. The big heavy Lead Acid battery kind that has a regular wall plug sockets and the batteries damage quickly. Get one with any KVA rating but at least 2x7Ah batteries. Some 1000VA UPSs have 2x7Ah batteries, most 2000VA UPSs do as well.

Fibre Network Backup Power

Implementing and maintaining backup power to a large network is tricky and expensive. Each node in the network needs its own backup power, so when/if Loadshedding gets really bad sometimes the backup systems aren’t beefy enough to re-charge between power cuts, or they might just fail. The fibre network operators want their networks up at all times but within achievable time and economic constraints.

Types of backup power

Not all backup power is equal. Here’s a simple overview
Prices are for context only and are roughly correct as of mid-2020

– Lithium-Ion DC to DC “Mini UPSs” – Similar to a power bank. ~R600-R1500
– Traditional Lead Acid Battery UPS
– The big black box kind that beeps. ~R600-4,000
– Power Packs – Think if a huge power bank with a wall plug socket. ~R10,000
– Batteries (of your choice) + Inverters – These tend to be big systems. Upwards of R10,000

For the purpose of this article we’re exploring home and small office solutions. There are many other forms of backup power including generators, solar, Tesla Power Walls and many more. These and the Batteries + Inverters require an expert to design a system to suit your needs.

How to choose a UPS

For the purpose of this post the assumption is you will only be powering two devices:
Fibre ONT and a WiFi router.

Fun fact: If you are on Frogfoot or Octotel with a single WiFi router, your power requirements will probably be around 15-20W

If you go with a DC Mini UPS then you just need to make sure can recharge it, it has the right cables come with it and you match up the voltage correctly. If you’re choosing a traditional Lead Acid UPS, just make sure you get one with enough batteries, at least 2x7Ah batteries (most 2000VA UPSs will have these) and don’t get tempted to plug in more devices.

Now onto the details.

Efficiency and battery storage

Mini UPSs that supply a DC current (DC->DC)via an adapter directly to your device doesn’t have this issue and as a result, are 30x smaller, last 2x longer and the batteries last many more cycles. They have deep cycle batteries, like your mobile phone, so won’t get damaged if Loadshedding lasts longer than expected.

Traditional UPSs supply electricity to a device via a wall socket plug (DC to AC power) will lose significant storage capacity due to the inefficiencies of changing stored DC electricity (usually 12V) to AC (220-230V). They are also not designed for deep cycling the battery, so using them below 50% will start to damage them and as Loadshedding lasts 2:30, most small UPSs won’t last 10-20 full cycles of the batteries.

All the cool kids use DC->DC systems because they last much much longer.


Mini UPSs

Mini-UPS-For-Fibre-Internet

Lithium Ion DC to DC “Mini UPSs”

~R600-R2000
These devices use Lithium Ion batteries (like in your cellphone, laptop, power bank) so have a high energy density and discharging all the way doesn’t damage them like Lead-Acid batteries.

The other advantage is they power your devices directly with DC power which means they are more efficient and you can get away with a smaller capacity battery.

Just make sure it comes with lots of cables to connect to your ONT and WiFi router, and you can recharge it.

Which to buy?

If you would like to buy a DC UPS to power your fibre during loadshedding, this Gizzu DC UPS power bank will power two devices with the provided splitter cable, or you can even power an AirCube WiFi Router via PoE.

If the above links are out of stock, please let us know and try google “Gizzu 8800mAh Mini DC POE UPS”

Instructions for AirCube owners: The cable to power the AirCube is not included with that kit, you need an additional ethernet (LAN) cable. A different colour LAN cable will be handy, like red or yellow. To set up the UPS correctly you need to set the voltage toggles on the device.


Traditional Lead Acid UPSs


Lead-Acid-UPS-Front-and-Back

Lead Acid UPS in a nutshell

As simple as these UPSs are to buy and install the most important thing to get right is the batteries. Do not think of a traditional UPS as anything like your USB Power Bank or Cellphone/Laptop battery. These batteries get damaged quicker than Luke Skywalker pulling out his light sabre if you don’t treat them with care.

The reason for this is that traditional UPSs are designed to supply a short power backup e.g. to save work and shut down a computer. They are also used in applications where the UPS batteries are less critical than the equipment they are protecting. In other words, traditional UPSs are designed for short backup power and a short lifespan of the batteries.

Deep Cycling: Discharging a Lead-Acid battery all the way will damage it very quickly (as little as 1-10 times).

Using the battery for a long period of time will also shorten the lifespan of the battery.

The cheap UPSs don’t have any cool features like internet connections, apps to monitor the device and they beep by default – it will drive you crazy (but you can turn it off. See below).

Having a wall plug is super convenient, but can be tempting to plug in more devices.

Which to buy?

The very cheapest Lead Acid UPSs are 1000VA but have 2x7Ah batteries. These two are generally the lowest priced.

If the above links are out of stock, please Google “1000VA line interactive UPS” and just check it has 2 x 7Ah batteries.

VAs and Ahs

Don’t worry, KVA ratings don’t mean a heck of a lot when choosing a UPS for running fibre through Loadshedding so you can pretty much ignore them. Even the tiniest UPS will be able to produce power enough for a WiFi router and ONT, but will run out of power quickly. Even the smallest of UPSs, a 600VA device, can produce 30x more than you need.

It’s all about the batteries. More retailers make it very difficult to find, but the thing to look out for is the batteries Ah rating if you want the power to last throughout Loadshedding and to not damage the batteries by discharging them too much (that’s called deep cycling).

Getting a UPS with a high VA rating and a small battery is like buying a 1000hp sports car with a 1L fuel tank to drive 60km/h for 2 hours.

Make sure the UPS you choose has at least 2 x 7Ah batteries in, some 1000VA and 2000VA and above should be fine.

Pro tips for UPSs with lead acid batteries

The batteries in most UPSs are not like your cellphone, laptop or powerbank, so they need to be handled differently
Do not discharge your UPS battery fully or else you will damage the batteries
Try keep the UPS cool when it’s recharging (well ventilated, near a fan will help)
Let it charge to 100% between discharges – this can take as much as 24 hours with Lead Acid Batteries.

How to stop a UPS beeping

The software that is provided locally either comes on a CD, or maybe out of date and not work with USB adapters. We found following software that is a much more modern version than what was supplied with our test unit and works with MAC OS X/USB-C adapters: https://powerwalker.com/?page=viewpower&lang=en (Click the Download icon next to your operating system to download the software)

Pro Tips.

  • If you turn your UPS off the setting will be forgotten and you will need to apply the settings again.
  • On Mac OS X you will need to Right Click and select “Open” before OS X will allow you to install the software. This is a standard procedure for Apps not sold through the App Store
  • On Mac OS X the installation process will include opening the Terminal app to ask for your system password

Watch the video.


Power Packs

~R10,000
Power packs are like USB power banks with the convenience of being able to use a regular wall plug. They are the product that Lead Acid UPSs wish they were – you can plug anything into, get crazy long power backup and abuse the battery. This one even has a solar charge controller and ultra-pure sine wave inverter to output power suitable for sensitive electronics including power tools, mixers, laptops, TV.

Batteries + Inverters

R10,000 and up.
This us where things get industrial and modular so our advice is limited. If you have a business or want to think about going off-grid this is the option for you. Options start at an inverter + a car battery and go skywards from there.