Tonga is back online after a five-week internet outage

It may take months to restore access to the entire archipelago.

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Igor Bonifacic
February 22, 2022 7:08 PM
In this article: news, gear, internet, broadband, web, undersea, Tonga
HUNGA TONGA-HUNGA HA'APAI, TONGA – DECEMBER 24, 2021: In this image 2. of a series created on January 19, 2022, Maxar overview satellite imagery shows the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai volcano on December 24, 2021, before the eruption on January 14th , 2022 in Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai Islands, Tonga. (Photo by Maxar via Getty Images)
Maxar via Getty Images

Five weeks after a volcanic eruption and subsequent tsunami knocked out internet access on the archipelago, Tonga is once again connected to the web. On Tuesday, Digicel, one of the country’s two main ISPs, said it had restored data connectivity on Tongatapu and Eua islands after the submarine Reliance completed repairs on the 514-mile fiber optic cable connecting the South Pacific nation to Fiji and the rest of the world. It took the underwater craft 20 days to replace a 57-mile section of the cable that had suffered multiple breaks.

However, not all of Tonga has internet access yet. The domestic cable that connects the main island of Tongatapu to its outlying neighbors suffered damage during the tsunami as well. Tonga Cable CEO James Panuve told Reuters it could take six to nine months to complete the necessary repairs, with a cable shortage delaying the work. “We don’t have enough cable,” he said.

The outage underscored just how precarious internet access can be for island nations and other remote communities. The fact it only took five weeks for Tonga to get back online is thanks to telecommunication companies from neighboring islands that shared cabling with the country when it ran out of its own supply.

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