How to stay connected during load shedding

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  • Load shedding can disrupt your work if you need connectivity.
  • Here are some ways to stay connected.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

Load shedding isn’t going anywhere and if you’re spending thousands of rands just for connectivity through a mobile hotspot, you need to consider a long-term solution.

Using a smartphone as a mobile hotspot is convenient yet expensive to do with local networks. It can also cause damage to a device, such as overheating, which subsequently affects performance, and running the battery down with constant recharging.

To avoid begrudgingly forking out for internet during load shedding, especially for remote working, it may be a good idea to suggest that your employer covers the cost of a cheaper solution, or to meet you half way.

Here are your options:

Buy a MiFi dongle

A mobile WiFi dongle is readily available from major retailers and Huawei seems to be the best option. You can either buy a standalone dongle, which should last four hours from a single charge; or buy a data only deal that comes with a MiFi dongle.

Typically, the bigger the data bundle you buy, the cheaper it becomes. Consider an LTE deal for data – note that you cannot make phone calls with it; nor can you use it for receiving SMSs for on-demand services like UberEats. It is solely a portable data connection that you can keep for emergencies like load shedding or if your fibre is down.

MyMTN Home Uncapped Fixed LTE costs R499/pm for 10Mbps with a fair usage policy of 400GB, alongside higher speed and FUP packages. Rain has similar deals for R479/pm on 4G and R499/pm on 5G. Where possible, try to test coverage at your property with a prepaid SIM card before signing any contracts.

The Huawei AI Life app pairs to the dongle so you can check usage and stats. It also lets you check signal strength in real-time, allowing you to walk around your home to find the most optimal spot to connect from.

Buy a UPS for your router

An uninterruptible power supply (UPS) will ensure that your critical devices remain powered during load shedding. It is ideally suited to power a router or even a desktop PC so it doesn’t immediately shut off resulting in losing unsaved work. You need to first check how long it will last so you’re buying the correct one for your device, or if you just need a little bit of power before you can properly switch off a PC after a power cut.

The UPS needs to be plugged into your wall socket, and then any device that needs the back-up power should be plugged directly into the UPS. If you have a home (uncapped) fibre connection, it is recommended that you connect a UPS to your router so you don’t have to pay exorbitant mobile data costs to hotspot.

Consider a mesh WiFi router

A mesh router pairs two or more routers together to create a seamless WiFi network across your home so you don’t have to put in additional passwords to connect to an “extended” network, which are typically weak (i.e. repeaters).

If you have a single username and password and connect multiple routers to a mesh network around your home, you’re basically accessing the same network seamlessly from anywhere. This works for larger properties or if you need connectivity in two opposite parts of your home/apartment and to possibly power any smart gadgets outside.

Brands that you can look out for that cater to home mesh WiFi systems are TP-Link, Tenda, Netgear, or Google.

Inverter with batteries

If you prefer to have more than just your router connected, and want to include your TV, gaming consoles, smart gadgets or electronics, you can also look into getting an inverter. This needs to be attached to a battery so make sure you’re buying one with it; otherwise you could have the batteries recharged with solar power if you have the budget for initial set-up. Inverters with batteries can be purchased from Geewiz, Takealot, Leroy Merlin, or Builders.

A simple plug-and-play portable battery solution is the Mobi-Volt from Power4Less. It can be recharged through a wall socket, supplied solar panels or a 12V car cigarette lighter. It is equipped with a three-pin plug and 2x USB ports that also support multi-plugs. Depending on capacity, you can plug larger appliances into it (500W-5000W) and have enough power to last days from a single charge. It looks like hand luggage, thus can be used and wheeled anywhere with no installation. However, you can connect it to your distribution board.

All the above mentioned solutions are meant to help in the long-term. The last thing you need during load shedding is equipment getting damaged due to it not being shut down properly or gate batteries dying due to the constant power cuts causing unnecessary expenses. While you’re at it, make sure your home contents insurance is up to date.

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