Elon Musk’s SpaceX is involving itself in restoring connectivity to the Pacific Island nation of Tonga after its internet was cut off following a massive volcano eruption. This was confirmed by Fiji’s Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, saying that the company is working on establishing a Starlink gateway.
Sayed-Khaiyum, who also serves as the Minister for Communications, told FBC News that a SpaceX engineering team will be on the ground in Fiji for six months to set up the system. In the future, Starlink satellites will be able to connect to one another via lasers, but the first batches of the technology work by relying on ground stations called gateways that tap into existing fibre-optic infrastructure.
During the recent Hunga Tonga–Hunga Haʻapai eruption, the Tonga Cable, an 827km submarine cable that connects Tonga to Fiji and international networks, was severely damaged, resulting in the island losing its only connection to the rest of the world. Elon Musk tweeted last month of his intention to provide assistance through SpaceX if required, and it seems that the billionaire is following through on his word.
Telephone links have been reconnected but as for the undersea cable, US maintenance company SubCom said it would take at least a month or more to restore full connectivity. This isn’t the first time that Tonga’s internet has been disrupted, as Tongans faced a similar outage in 2019 due to a cut on the island’s only cable.