Communications restored in Tonga one month after volcanic eruption and tsunami | Tonga

Tonga has been reconnected to the world after an undersea cable was repaired, a month after a volcanic eruption and tsunami cut communications with the remote Pacific island nation.

“People on the main island will have access almost immediately,” Tonga Cable chief executive James Panuve told Reuters by telephone after a repair vessel handed over the restored cable on Tuesday afternoon.

The school chaplain at Penisimani Akauola Tonga was among those who got back online for the first time since disaster struck the small island nation in mid-January.

“First post on Facebook since January 15! So blessed for the opportunity! Malo Tonga Cable and the Government of Tonga! he wrote.

Tongans struggled with makeshift satellite services during cable repairs.

The Reliance repair vessel took 20 days to replace a 92 km (57 mile) section of the 827 km fiber optic submarine cable that connects Tonga to Fiji and other international networks.

Panuve thanked telecommunications companies in neighboring Pacific islands, particularly New Caledonia, who provided lengths of cable when Tonga ran out.

The next job would be to repair the domestic cable linking the main island of Tongatapu to the outer islands most affected by the tsunami, which could take six to nine months, Panuve said.

“We don’t have enough cables,” he added.

Still, communication using interim satellite services to outer islands would improve after Tonga’s networks switched the main island from satellite to fibre, he said.

One of the two main service providers, Digicel, said in a statement that all of its customers on Tongatapu and Eua islands were connected to the outside world as data connectivity was restored.

Digicel Tonga chief executive Anthony Seuseu said in a statement that the company will consider increasing network investments and optimization to better prepare for a catastrophic event in the future.

Digicel’s Pacific business was purchased by Australian telecommunications company Telstra Corp in October with funding from the Australian government.

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