Tonga Prime Minister Hon Siaosi Sovaleni today tested the connectivity of a VSAT terminal, installed at CPM. This is one of 50 terminals donated by we billionaire Elon Musk of SpaceX.
the PM said that these terminals will be distributed and strategically installed on all the island groups, including the two Niuas, to provide fast and free Internet service and a communication link.
“We tested them and a terminal was installed in the prime minister’s office,” he said.
Mr Musk donated the terminals to help Tonga reconnect after the undersea internet cable was severed in several places due to the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcanic eruption and tsunamis on January 15 .
“Together, we have come through this unprecedented event and devastation. The ashfall from this cataclysmic underwater volcanic eruption affected 85% of our population, and the tsunamis it created caused severe damage to many of our people’s homes, businesses and public infrastructure. in coastal areas and small outlying islands. »
The event also severely damaged Tonga’s only submarine cable system, causing power outages to international and domestic internet services and cutting communication links with Tonga.
“As a result, Tonga was left with very limited communications services from very little satellite capability available at the time, including the missions here in Tonga, and I sincerely thank them for helping out in when needed.”
Communications operators have scrambled to source additional satellite capacity from providers including Kacific Satellite and the USPNand. A few satellite phones were also available.
Tonga Cable Limited arranged to repair and restore the cable system, while several offers and assistance from development partners, UN Agencies and donor agencies were flooding in with satellite links and capacity, which today included SpaceX and Starlink terminals, he said.
The SpaceX connection was born from a simple letter from New Zealand deputy Dr Shane Reti approached Elon Musk, two days after the eruption, asking for help with Starlink internet communications for Tonga at this time of need, he said.
Mr Musk responded and set up the operation in Fiji, and donated 50 VSAT Terminals, making capacity available free of charge from these terminals during this emergency period until the complete restoration of the cable system.
“Note that we only managed to repair the international link to Tongatapu but not the cable to Vava’u and Ha’apai.”
Moreover, the PM said by setting up these terminals, they understand that it must not undermine the work done by commercial operators such as CCTDigicel and Wantok who also provide services to customers.