Load-shedding is a regular occurrence in South Africa, it is implemented to reduce the load on the supply of electricity.
By Nash Dennis Manyozo, co-founder and chief operating officer of TNJ Projects Solutions
Load-shedding leaves people and businesses without electricity, at any time of the day -which affects the daily operation of things, and network connections causing a serious problem for fibre providers and users. We look at how load-shedding affects fibre users and the impact it has on fibre providers.
What is fibre?
Fibre is optic technology that transfers high-speed data through glass cabling. Fibre provides a more reliable network service because it is secure and sturdy. With fibre, data can travel up to 50km away before the speed is affected. With a power outage, fibre services will not work as the OPT (optical network terminal) and router won’t be powered on.
How load-shedding affects fibre users?
When load-shedding happens, a lot of fibre users lose their network. When the electricity comes back, many users try to reconnect at the same time which causes a significant delay because the systems that control the network become overwhelmed. It might take two to three hours for everyone to be connected again.
How does load-shedding impact fibre providers?
The constant power outages enable criminals to easily steal the infrastructure in the darkness. The incidents of theft and vandalism of infrastructure continue to increase as load-shedding increases in South Africa. Criminals target the batteries used in the backup systems for the network, which is more operational costs for the service provider.
Theft and vandalism to infrastructure not only disrupts the fibre network but all networks in general. The criminals leave communities vulnerable without network connectivity.
During load-shedding, service providers need to make sure they establish network stability while also trying to protect themselves against theft and vandalism.
In certain instances the number of theft and vandalism incidents that occur causes operators to leave their base stations because of unattainable replacement costs, which negatively impacts network availability and standard in some places.
This also adversely affects the users, for example: when one needs to make an emergency call and there is no network, it puts their lives at risk. It disrupts educational programmes in schools and it lowers communication and connectivity for everyone in the country, which is bad for the economy.
Load-shedding affects the equipment at the client’s premises. When the power returns, the equipment has to set up a connection with the service provider to get internet access and that takes time.
The service provider also needs to have backup generators because of load-shedding. The generators help the network to be backed up when the power is out.
However, depending on the size of the generator batteries, not everyone can have a network during load-shedding.
The frequency of load-shedding also has an impact on the use of generators because they might not recharge sufficiently when the power is out. With the persistent power outages, even backup systems are not enough which have an impact on the customers as well as on revenue.
Additionally, load-shedding increases the costs for fibre providers. Having network backup solutions are expensive. The costs include the cost of supplying networks with backup power, the cost of generator fuel, solar power and batteries.
What can fibre users do to extenuate the situation?
Customers should take note of their load-shedding schedule and plan around it. Customers can also purchase a small UPS device to help power the CPE device and WiFi router when power is out for a maximum of four hours.
Load-shedding is a serious problem that not only affects fibre providers but all businesses at large. Losing an internet connection is a standstill for a lot of businesses. An effective solution in the telecommunications needs to be made for load-shedding moving forward.
With load-shedding a regular occurrence in South Africa, fibre providers need to come up with long term solutions to help with such disruptions. Minimizing the loss of connection will be beneficial for them and their clients.