Tonga’s internet access has been restored a month after the volcanic eruption cut communications with a remote island

Tonga was reconnected to the world on Tuesday after an undersea cable was repaired, officials said, 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,” James Panuve, managing director of Tonga Cable, said 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 Facebook post since Jan 15th! So blessed for this opportunity! Malo Tonga Cable & Tonga Government!” he wrote.

Tongans struggled with makeshift satellite services during cable repairs.

A satellite image shows the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano before its main eruption, in Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai, Tonga, on April 10, 2021, and again on January 6, 2022. (Maxar Technologies/Reuters)

The repair vessel took 20 days to replace a 92 kilometer section of the 827 kilometer undersea fiber optic 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 which were hit harder by the tsunami, Panuve said, but that could take six to nine months.

“We don’t have enough cable,” he said.

WATCH | The tsunami cut telephone service in Tonga:

Tsunami cuts communications with Tonga, extent of damage unknown

The small nation of Tonga is cut off from most communications after an underwater volcanic eruption triggered a tsunami. The country’s isolation and lack of communication made it difficult to assess the damage or send aid. 2:07

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 Managing Director Anthony Seuseu said in a statement that the company will consider increasing investment and network optimization to better prepare for a catastrophic event…in the future.

Digicel’s Pacific operations have been purchased by Australian telecommunications company Telstra Corp. in October with funding from the Australian Government.

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