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Cell C Load Shedding Guide

Tuesday, 4 February 2020

Load Shedding: What You Need To Know

Load shedding has once again become a regular occurrence in South Africa and unfortunately it’s bound to affect Cell C subscribers. The planned power outages can lead to some subscribers finding themselves without a phone signal leaving them, in some cases, unable to use data or communicate with friends and family.

However some customers won’t be affected and as such, this can cause confusion and criticism on social media. Here are the answers to some of the most frequently issued complaints about mobile phones when load shedding hits.

I have no signal during load shedding!

It’s probably because load shedding has taken out the power to your nearest base station. The country’s big telcos do put as many measures in place as possible to ensure customers are still connected during the load shedding. However when load shedding hits they’re faced with a huge array of challenges.

Backup generators are primarily assigned to base stations where there is a high volume of traffic and it’s not possible to get generators to all load shedding affected areas. Additionally, there is a knock-on effect that lingers after the period of load shedding. In some cases, transformers at substations trip and require Eskom manpower to bring those back online, extending the period without power. Also, electricity surges when power returns on may mean that equipment at base stations are affected and need to be replaced or rebooted before those sites can be restored.

On top of that, telcos see the rate of vandalism to network sites usually doubles during load shedding from its average of around 10-15%.

My friend on (fill in the name of a network here) has a signal, but I don’t! What’s going on?

It’s likely that your friend on another network is near one of their network’s base stations that happen to have a backup generator. In this instance, their signal shouldn’t drop unless, of course, it’s vandalised or a power surge causes the site to trip.

The enduring myth of load shedding and its impact on mobile phone usage is that some networks are completely unaffected. You only need to toss the name of a network onto Twitter during or just after an outage for confirmation that you are not alone, that some subscribers on other networks are also down. You’ll see complaints from customers on every single network, but the complaints will emanate from different locations around the country. So while a customer on a certain network may still have a signal in say, Randburg, it may be a different story for another of that network’s customers in Bedfordview.

I had data before load shedding. When the power came back on, all my data was gone. What happened?

Cell C makes every effort to ensure uptime on its network, however, as with all other businesses, we are in some cases affected by load shedding. Customers are advised to check their load shedding schedules and plan accordingly, but even if there is no power, it does not mean that they cannot use their data. Additionally, daily bundles last for 24 hours, which should provide ample time for customers to make use of it outside of load shedding periods.

When load shedding hits it’s important to bear a couple of things in mind if you’re a customer who regularly buys bundles. While load shedding and signal loss will affect all customers who aren’t lucky enough to be near a base station, i.e. they’ll lose their signal, daily bundle buyers are at particular risk because they have less time to use the allocated data and voice.

Unfortunately you will not be refunded if you experience load shedding on a day you buy a daily bundle. None of the major telcos offer a refund for bundle contents that expire while load shedding is in effect.

But even if there is no power, it does not mean that you cannot use your data. Daily bundles last for 24-hours, which should provide ample time for you to make use of it outside of load shedding periods.

Is there anything I can do to lessen the blow caused by load shedding?

There are quite a few things you can do, which include:

  • Check your load shedding schedules and plan accordingly.
  • Use your service provider’s bespoke app (should they have one) to check your voice, SMS and data levels and their expiration dates.
  • Make sure any electronic devices that don’t depend entirely on a power source like cellphones, tablets, laptops, etc. are always fully charged.
  • Buy a couple of power banks and make sure they’re fully charged - that way if you’re running out of charge for you devices in a power outage, you have back up.

Before load shedding

  • Batteries need to be charged ahead of time in preparation for load shedding. Some take up to 48 hours to fully charge, and this cannot be done during load shedding.

During load shedding

  • Generators and backup batteries kick in at base stations. They last the two to four-hour period of load shedding, but once it exceeds 4 hours, a number of problems arise.
  • Load shedding depletes the efficacy of batteries because they are not given adequate time to recharge, which means that battery backup becomes shorter every time.
  • Some transformers trip, which leads to a generator or base station going down. 
  • The number of vandalism incidents at base stations double during this time.

After load shedding

  • When outages exceed four hours, it can take base stations six to nine hours for infrastructure to come back on again. That’s equivalent to a day’s work.
  • When power resumes, equipment at base stations are sometimes damaged and Cell C needs to bring in technicians to do repairs.
  • This is why when the electricity in households comes back on, there is a delay in the network reaching optimal performance - messages may take long to deliver and download speeds may be slower.

For more information, please see the Load Shedding Guide below:
Cell C Load Shedding Guide

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