Load-shedding is a serious problem for fibre providers

Despite Eskom’s plan to improve its operational efficiency and shore up electricity production before winter, load-shedding is still a real risk to South Africa.

Energy expert Ted Blom has prophesized that it is only a matter of time before load-shedding returns in earnest due to mismanagement, a lack of long-term coal contracts, and many other factors.

There are ways to maintain some amenities during load-shedding, especially if you have a generator to power your essential appliances during power outages.

You can also keep your fixed-line Internet connection active with just a UPS, and this can be a great solution for heavy data users with fibre Internet connections.

Load-shedding can also affect fibre network operators, however, as their network infrastructure remains powered by backup solutions during power outages.

These secondary power solutions can be expensive to manage and run, however, and issues such as battery theft can also be a threat to operations.

MyBroadband spoke to Vumatel about the effect of load-shedding on its network and the costs of providing fibre infrastructure.


Facing challenges

Vumatel said that power cuts are damaging to any communication network despite unpredictable electricity supply being catered for during the designing of the network.

“As we have seen in the most recent round of load-shedding, interrupted power supply is not ideal for any communications network with even the mobile network operators facing a number of challenges during this period,” Vumatel said.

Every POP (point of presence) on Vumatel’s national network has backup power with sufficient capacity to remain powered throughout load-shedding, the company said.

“However, the unpredictable nature and impact of inconsistent electricity supply will always remain a challenge.”

Vumatel added that most of the major networks are focusing on additional measures to minimise the impact of potential future load-shedding.

“The biggest impact is on the end user, for as much power redundancy is implemented at the core network level, unless the end user has an alternate or backup power source at home, they will remain without connectivity.”

Increased costs

Vumatel acknowledged that the cost of running any communication network on backup power is relatively expensive.

“The cost of equipping networks with backup power and the cost of running and maintaining backup power during load shedding is significant,” the company said.

“With the additional operating costs of managing generator fuel levels, solar power and so on, as well as unexpected costs such as the replacement of stolen batteries.”

Battery backup units are major targets for criminals, especially considering the proliferation of load-shedding and increased demand for backup power throughout the country.

Vumatel said that it could not predict how the cost of running its network regularly on backup power would affect the price of wholesale fibre, but added that it aims to keep its offering stable in terms of reliability and price.

“It is difficult to predict potential increases in operational costs based on an unpredictable environment,” the company explained.

“However, Vumatel endeavours to keep its wholesale model to the ISP stable, as network and power redundancy is part of our existing business model and service offering.”

Now read: Competition Tribunal examining CIVH purchase of Vumatel

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Load-shedding is a serious problem for fibre providers