Specialist SpaceX team arrives in Fiji to restore Tonga’s internet


Elon Musk’s SpaceX is in negotiations with Fiji’s telecoms operator Fintel to establish a ground station in the country as it helps restore internet connectivity.

Engineers have arrived in Fiji after an underwater volcanic eruption in mid-January damaged Tonga’s only optic-fibre cable, with only limited connectivity available to the nation since.

The undersea cable damaged by the disaster will take weeks to fix according to New Zealand’s ministry of foreign affairs.

Last month, Musk offered to send terminals to restore internet to the country, saying on Twitter that he could send Starlink terminals to Tonga.

The tweet went viral with pleas from Tongans looking to re-establish communication to contact families.

Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, Fiji’s minister for communications announced on Twitter that a SpaceX team was working in Fiji to establish a Starlink gateway station to “reconnect Tonga to the world.”

The Hunga Tonga volcano's shockwave shattered Tonga's internet connection, adding days of gut-wrenching uncertainty to disaster assessments. A @SpaceX team is now in Fiji establishing a Starlink Gateway station to reconnect Tonga to the world. Great initiative, @elonmusk! — Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum (@FijiAG) February 7, 2022

He revealed that SpaceX was also in negotiations with Fiji’s telecoms operator Fintel to establish a ground station in the country.

Since the volcano erupted, a 2G wireless connection has been established on the main island, although this connection is patchy, with internet services running slowly.

Tonga’s cable was laid in 2013 and cost $15 million and in 2019 the nation signed a 15-year deal to secure satellite connectivity following a cable break.

For five days following the eruption, however, no internet traffic was reported until operators in the country established a connection to the global internet via satellite.