Tonga regains internet service five weeks after volcano eruption crippled undersea cable linking it to rest of world

Internet connection was restored in Tonga on Tuesday, five weeks after a massive volcanic eruption shredded the undersea cable that connects the Pacific nation to the rest of the world.

Telecoms providers Digicel and TCC said data connectivity had been restored to two main islands, after interruptions to a 50-mile stretch of cable were finally repaired.

Residents reported that services were coming back online quickly, emails seemed lightning fast after 38 days of internet slump and a flurry of calls from family overseas were coming in – their voices were now heard loud and clear. strong.

“YES! TCC is restoring fiber cable Internet services,” the company said in a message to customers.

The January 15 eruption was so powerful it was heard as far away as Alaska and caused a tsunami that flooded Pacific coasts.

FILE PHOTO: Satellite view of an underwater volcano erupting off the coast of Tonga
The eruption of an undersea volcano off the coast of Tonga is seen in an image from a NOAA GOES-West satellite taken on January 15, 2022.


He covered Tonga with ash and mutilated a long section of the submarine cable which proved more difficult than expected to repair.

Immediately after the disaster, contact with Tonga was only possible via a handful of satellite links. Although some connectivity was subsequently restored, connections were limited.

Digicel said “data connectivity has been restored” on two islands after “several outages and breaks” were repaired.

“We are delighted to see that our customers are once again connected to the outside world,” said Anthony Seuseu, CEO of Digicel Tonga.

Earlier this month Tonga Cable Limited CEO James Panuve said a repair vessel had located the severed ends of the cable linking Tonga to Fiji that had been severed in the blast.

But rather than a clean break, Panuve said the ship found the blowout tore a large section of cable into several pieces as it pounded the seabed with the explosive force of a nuclear bomb.

“It is obvious that the eruption, the shock waves (and) the tsunami caused significant damage under water,” he said.

Panuve said that after battling bad weather, the cable repair vessel “Reliance” had to salvage sections of cable from deep waters.

He said one section was displaced three miles by the underwater explosion and another was buried under a foot of silt.

The eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano killed three people.

According to UN agencies, the eruption and tsunami also damaged 293 homes and displaced 1,525 people.

Around 85% of the total population was affected by the disaster, with fresh water hard to find and arable land covered by two inches of ash in some places.

Although Tonga is receiving aid under strict ‘no contact’ protocols, the international relief effort caused an outbreak of COVID-19 in the past virus-free nation.