SpaceX aims to restore Tonga's internet using Starlink satellites

The satellite broadband provider is reportedly building an internet bridge.

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NOMUKA, TONGA - JANUARY 17: In this handout photo provided by the New Zealand Defense Force, an aerial view from a P-3K2 Orion surveillance flight of heavy ash fall on January 17, 2022 Nomuka, Tonga. A 5 Squadron crew work on board whilst flying overhead to provide vital information to send back to MFAT and various other government agencies. Tonga was struck by a tsunami caused by an undersea volcano erupting in the Pacific Ocean on January 15th. (Photo by New Zealand Defense Force via Getty Images)
New Zealand Defense Force via Getty Images

Tonga is still struggling to get back online following the January 15th volcano eruption, and SpaceX might offer some help. According to The Wall Street Journal, Fiji communications minister Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum understands SpaceX is looking to reconnect Tonga using its Starlink satellite broadband service. The company has a team in Fiji building a station that would serve as an internet bridge, the official said.

We've asked SpaceX for comment. It's not clear just what kind of service Tongans could expect, but connectivity in Fiji or Tonga would be new to the company. Starlink's public beta is only available in 25 countries as of this writing, and the closest neighbors with active service are Australia and New Zealand. There are roughly 1,800 satellites in service, but more are on the way as SpaceX seeks to fill out coverage.

A reconnection effort like this may be more complicated than it seems. Tonga authorized Kacific to provide satellite internet service to the country in late January, ending a long-running dispute. It's not certain how this will affect SpaceX's plans, but it would clearly ramp up competition. At the same time, the Pacific nation is still without access to the undersea cable that usually delivers internet service, and isn't expected to regain that access for weeks. It might not have much choice but to invite additional help if it wants to recover quickly, and SpaceX's involvement could give Tonga a useful backup for any future disruptions.

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