According to an official in Fiji, where work is underway, Elon Musk’s satellite internet venture is helping to restore connectivity to the Pacific Island nation of Tonga.
Tonga’s only fiber-optic connection to the internet and the rest of the world was cut on January 15 by a volcanic eruption and only limited connectivity has been available since then.
“A SpaceX team is now in Fiji to build a Starlink gateway station to reconnect Tonga to the world,” Fiji Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum said on Twitter.
Starlink is a division of Tesla boss Musk’s space company SpaceX, and in January Musk himself had mentioned on Twitter that Starlink might be able to help.
The Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcanic eruption triggered a tsunami that devastated villages and resorts and covered the nation’s capital of about 105,000 people in ash, as well as severing fiber optic communications cable.
The timing of SpaceX’s work is not clear, although the Fijian Broadcasting Corporation, citing Sayed-Khaiyum, said engineers would operate a ground station in Fiji for six months.
SpaceX did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment. The office of the Prime Minister of Tonga and the state telecom, Tonga Communications Corporation, were not immediately available by phone or email.
Refinitiv vessel data shows that cable repair vessel Reliance has been lying off the coast of Tonga’s main island for nearly a week as it tries to repair the damaged submarine cable.
Any improvement in communications is likely to come as a relief to Tongans who have struggled to keep in touch with relatives abroad and support recovery efforts also hampered by a COVID-19 lockdown.
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