The cheapest backup power devices for staying online during load-shedding

With load-shedding returning amid the growing adoption of remote working due to the COVID-19 pandemic, South Africans are in need of backup power solutions to keep them online at home.

The good news is that Internet routers are not as power-demanding as devices like computers, televisions, or household appliances, which means you don’t require a large and expensive battery-inverter system to keep them running for short periods of time.

On average, Internet routers consume around 6W of electricity per hour, although typical usage can range between 2W-20W.

One of the most common and cost-effective solutions for keeping your router online is an uninterruptible power supply (UPS).

These devices contain batteries that will charge when power is provided and discharge if load-shedding hits.

Most conventional UPS devices use lead-acid batteries, which are best suited for providing a short burst of backup power to computers or devices that allow you to save work and shut them down safely.

However, there are several lithium-ion and lithium-polymer options which have deep cycling capabilities, making them optimal for use over longer periods.

We’ve compiled a selection of UPS solutions for fibre and mobile routers available on online stores in South Africa below.

Note that estimated uptimes will vary depending on your particular device and its power usage.

UPSs for fibre and mobile routers
UPS Capacity at 12V  Output types Estimated uptime on fibre (20W) Estimated uptime on mobile router (12W) Price
Mini DC UPS  + Power supply 28Wh  12V, USB 1 hour and 20 minutes 2 hours and 30 minutes R830
Gizzu POE-45WP 32Wh 5V, 9V, 12V 1 hour and 30 minutes 2-3 hours R839
Ellies Mini Cube 105Wh 2 x 12V, 9V, 5V, USB 5-6 hours 8-9 hours R1,200-R1,600
Multi-voltage UPS 32Wh 9V, 12V, 15V, 24V, USB 1 hour and 30 minutes 2-3 hours R1,499
Ashcom Mini UPS Battery Backup 32Wh 5V, 9V, 12V, 15V, 24V 1 hour and 30 minutes 2-3 hours R1,299

Capacity requirements

Energy solutions provider Blue Nova explained to calculate what capacity backup power you would need, you should multiply the router’s power rating by the number of hours of load-shedding.

Using 20W as a baseline, this means the minimum capacity of your solution would have to be between 40Wh and 80Wh for load-shedding periods between two and four hours.

Fibre users will have to take into account that they must be able to power both their Wi-Fi router and the Optical Network Terminal (ONT) or CPE which links to the fibre network.

Energy equipment manufacturer Ellies noted that for certain setups, this could be as high as 30W, although it will vary greatly based on the particular CPE and router provided by the ISP.

The UPS will also need to use an appropriate connector, with most routers using either a 12V or 9V connection.

Cool Ideas co-owner Paul Butschi recommended consumers look at a simple DC to DC solution, as this eliminates the need for any AC conversion.

Fibre options

Butschi explained that the majority of fibre providers provide long-run backup power for their core infrastructure through a combination of UPSs and generators.

Most fibre customers will, therefore, be able to keep using their Internet connection, provided they have appropriate backup power for their router at home.

Several fibre ISPs offer products which can provide power to their customers’ ONTs and routers during load-shedding.

RSAWEB currently includes a free mini UPS on uncapped fibre packages with 40Mbps or higher speeds.

The provider says the UPS is capable of keeping your ONT and router online for up to four hours of load-shedding, and normally costs around R2,000.

Vox also offers a UPS to its customers at R79 per month, offering up to three hours of run time.

Ellies is also bringing a new UPS to the market soon which offers a larger capacity for keeping multiple devices up and running.

The Life Lynk Mini Cube uses a 12-cell Lithium-Ion battery with a capacity of 105Wh. This allows for standby time of 10 hours and an average uptime of 6 hours powering a router.

It will come with four DC outputs – including two 12V plugs, one 9V plug and a 5V plug – as well as two USB ports.

LTE routers

For those using a mobile data connection – such as LTE – there is a variety of cost-effective UPSs and power banks which are capable of providing hours of backup power to battery-less routers which normally use standard power sockets.

When considering a power bank, ensure that it supports the output voltage your router requires, as most only offer 5V.

However, load-shedding may lead to slower LTE network performance due to the draining of backup batteries at tower base stations.

It is therefore important that you observe the performance of a mobile data connection on a particular network in your area before buying one of these devices.

Mobile routers and dongles

You can also pick up a mobile Wi-Fi (MiFi) router with a built-in battery pack that can be charged when the power is on, or a dongle that can be powered via a USB port on a laptop.

Here are several of the most affordable options of this kind available from

  • Huawei Mobile WiFi E5576 LTE router – R798
  • TP-LINK TL-MR3020 router (powered via USB cable to laptop) – R410
  • D-Link DWM-222 4G LTE USB Adapter –  R525

You can also use your smartphone’s mobile Wi-Fi hotspot, but this usage will come out of your mobile data package.

Now read: Big ADSL shutdown in South Africa – These areas will be cut off

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The cheapest backup power devices for staying online during load-shedding