Tonga island longer without internet due to broken sea cable after volcanic eruption

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Island group Tonga will be without internet for longer because the repair of the submarine cable to the island will take longer. That’s according to the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The cable was damaged after the volcanic eruption in the area.

The submarine cable was damaged early this week after the partially submarine volcano Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai erupted. The cable connects the archipelago with the outside world: both internet and telephony run via the fiber optic cable. Volcanic ash also makes telephony and internet via satellite connections more difficult. The repair of the sea cable will take longer than expected.

Initially, it was said that the repair would take several weeks. The BBC now writes that the recovery will take at least a month. That’s what the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

SubCom Reliance, the vessel that will perform the repair.

The repair is being carried out by the American cable company SubCom, in collaboration with telecom provider Tonga Cable. The ship that has to do the repair has yet to leave for the area and is not nearby. In addition, it is not yet known what the conditions are under sea. The rupture occurred near the volcanic eruption, about 37 kilometers off the coast of Nuku’alofa.

Until the cable is repaired, the only connection to the outside world is a number of satellite phones from foreign embassies in the capital Nuku’alofa. Telecom company Digicel is planning to establish a temporary and very limited 2G connection that should enable SMS and calling to the island, the BBC writes.

About 106,000 inhabitants live on the island group of Tonga, spread over 36 inhabited islands. They have been without internet and telephony since January 15, when the volcano erupted. As a result, relatives of the residents have had virtually no contact with residents. In addition, the international airport of the archipelago is still covered by a thick layer of ash, making the supply of resources more difficult.

Update 2 pm: Starlink Internet is not an option for the archipelago as there is no Starlink ground station in the area. The nearest ground station is Puwera Gateway, but it does not reach the Tonga archipelago. Thanks to Kenhas for this addition.

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