Tonga submarine cable repaired, restoring internet after eruption

Tonga (Credit: Adli Wahid)

The major submarine cable key to Tonga’s online access was back in service as of Tuesday, restoring data access to many of its people five weeks after a volcanic eruption disconnected the pacific island nation from the rest of the world. 

The oversea connection between Tongatapu and Fiji was repaired, according to a press release from Digicel—a major local Internet Service Provider. However, some other parts of local submarine telecom infrastructure, including the domestic link to the Vava’u island group, are still being fixed. 

Doug Madory, Director of Internet Analysis for Kentik, confirmed to The Record that traffic appeared to be flowing back over submarine cables to Tonga. 

In the past couple of hours, the submarine cable serving Tonga was repaired and island's high speed connection to the internet has been restored.

Latency drop from geostationary satellite to submarine cable (ex: 670ms -> 139ms) is huge and visible in @kentikinc Synthetics.

— Doug Madory (@DougMadory) February 22, 2022

Digicel CEO Anthony Seuseu said the company was learning “tough lessons” from the blast and is seeking to make its networks more resilient.

“The recent incident has also provided the opportunity to our team to look at increased investment and network optimization to plan and prepare better for a catastrophic event of such nature in the future,” he added. 

The cable suffered multiple breaks as a result of the eruption and the submarine repair vessel worked on fixes for more than two weeks, according to the company. 

There was extremely limited communication with the outside world in wake of the eruption, although some online access trickled back to parts of the country via satellite providers around five days later, The Record reported.

Being so suddenly cut off from the outside world had a dramatic effect on local disaster response and those around the world seeking information about loved ones. 

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