Tonga’s broken submarine cable has been found, but requires more cable to fix than local operators have aboard the cable repair ship. Discussion are ongoing to secure cable on the ship owned by other operators, and it is hoped repairs can be completed in the coming days.
Last month, a large underwater volcano erupted close to Tonga, triggering tsunamis reaching heights of almost three feet in places. Both the international Tonga Cable – laid in 2013 and running 827km to Fiji – and the Tonga Domestic cable connecting the islands of Vavaʻu, Lifuka, and Tongatapu were damaged, and repairs are ongoing.
Repairs to the broken cables were originally expected to take around two weeks, but Tonga Cable Ltd. last week said an ROV (remotely operated vehicle) from the cable repair ship Reliance could not locate the break in the International cable, which has likely been moved due to shockwaves or mudslides, further delaying repairs.
Samiuela Fonua, chairperson at Tonga Cable Ltd., the state-owned company that owns Tonga’s subsea cables, told the AP last week that repairs to the cable might not be completed until the end of this week.
Fonua said while the crew aboard the repair ship CS Reliance had managed to locate both ends of the damaged cable, the damage was extensive and the company didn’t have enough cable aboard the ship to replace more than 80 kilometers (50 miles) of damaged cable.
Fonua said there was extra cable aboard the Reliance that was owned by other companies, and Tonga Cable was hoping to secure agreements with those companies to use it.
Shally Jannif, the Fiji-based regional CEO of Digicel, told Capacity this week the ship does have stocks on board belonging to other operators, and is in discussions to use this supply.
“Hopefully by early next week we will have connectivity on the international cable,” Jannif said.
While some local services are operational in the main cities and some satellite Internet is available, connectivity is still limited. Kacific and Intelsat are providing additional services to the country, but the CEO of Tonga Communications Corporation, Sione Veikoso, recently said total capacity at the moment was around 250 megabits per second, compared to more than 2,000Mbps in demand.