SES restores comms links to Tonga as cable ship on the way

SES restores comms links to Tonga as cable ship on the way

Shally Jannif Digicel.jpg

Telecoms services are now back in operation between Tonga and the world, less than a week after a massive volcano cut two subsea cables.

Digicel restored communications between the islands and the rest of the world using satellite services from SES. More equipment is on its way to Tonga to add further connections.

Shally Jannif (pictured), regional CEO of Digicel, said: “As soon as the link was opened up and international calls got restored last night, we saw an influx of callers as there were up to 200 simultaneous calls.”

She added: “Today, our technical team did further upgrades on the link and we are pleased to announce that now 400 calls can be done at a time.”

Enterprise satellite specialist Speedcast said that it had provided equipment to restore services to Tonga and its islands for the first time since last Saturday’s volcano.

“Speedcast is establishing critical satellite connectivity delivering high-capacity bandwidth to support the island’s restoration efforts,” said the company.

The Vodafone Foundation, the group’s global charitable arm, said it was working with Vodafone New Zealand to deploy instant network emergency response to help re-connect communities.

“The team are currently working with the New Zealand Defence Force to test the VSAT equipment so it can be shipped to Tonga later this week,” said Vodafone. “Our satellite technology will also support organisations in-country to effectively coordinate targeted recovery efforts.”

Jannif, a Fijian accountant who heads five markets for Digicel in the Pacific, said: “We have more modems and amplifiers on its way to Tonga. These will enhance output power and upgrade the link capacity. We also have more satellite antennas on the flight which will help deliver more capacity to Tonga and also try and bring Ha’apai and Vava’u islands online.”

These are the two islands to the north of the main Tongan island of Tongatapu, which were connected by the 410km Tonga Domestic Cable Extension. That, like the 827km Tonga Cable from Fiji, was broken by the eruption.

There’s more good news for the people of Tonga: Subcom’s cable ship Reliance is now heading south from its Port Moresby base in Papua New Guinea. reports the ship as heading due south at a speed of 8.6 knots – about 15.5km/hour. But Tonga is more than 10 days’ sailing away from Port Moresby at that speed.

Jannif said about the satellite services: “We anticipate putting up all basic services in the next few days and then we hope to install more equipment to bring GPRS and 3G basic data services up, so bank ATMs, EFTPOS and other services can be up in Tonga.”

John Turnbull, director of Pacific region at SES, said: “SES and Digicel have a long history of providing multi-orbit capacity into key Pacific markets, and our partnership enabled the first communication services out of Tonga. Our thoughts are with the residents of Tonga as we continue to work relentlessly to increase connectivity to the nation.”

At Speedcast, James Trevelyan, senior VP of enterprise and emerging markets, said: “In the aftermath of a natural disaster or life-threatening emergency, quick-deploy connectivity solutions are critical. Speedcast has a long track-record of providing immediate, first-response support to enable successful recovery efforts – which oftentimes last for weeks thereafter.”

He added: “This is the lifeblood of why we do what we do at Speedcast – to provide communications in harsh or remote locations, regardless of the severity of disaster or environmental challenges at hand.”

Turnbull said: “We are humbled to be of service to the people of Tonga during this difficult time. The importance of connecting with critical resources, friends and family cannot be overstated, and our technical teams have been working hard to enable Digicel to restore vital connections between Tonga and the rest of the world.”

Vodafone said it had launched the Vodafone Foundation Red Cross Pacific Tsunami Appeal, and both Vodafone NZ and the Vodafone Foundation would match all donations up to NZ$200,000. That means NZ$10 from a contributor will be increased to NZ$30. Details are here:

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