Entrepreneur Elon Musk is helping Tonga’s attempt to provide a staple internet service to remote places in the kingdom.
Information CEO Paula Ma’u said today Musk donated 50 VSAT Terminals satellite disks.
“These terminals will be deployed at strategic locations throughout Tonga to ensure connections and communications are maintained, particularly for the disaster response operations”, Ma’u said.
Technical staff from Musk’s SpaceX company and the Tongan government were working on installing the equipment and is scheduled to be launched next week.
The 827km fibre optic internet cable between Tonga and Fiji was cut when the Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai volcano exploded. It is expected to be fixed and reconnect the international services on February 20.
Musk’s donations come amid debate among Tongan authorities over the best option for its internet backup.
The government of the late prime minister ‘Akilisi Pōhiva believed the best option was for Tonga to spend its money in building a satellite back up service.
The Pōhiva government had made a 15-year deal with Kacific to establish a satellite backup link, but this was cancelled by the Tu’ionetoa government.
Current Prime Minister Hu’akavameiliku supported the idea of having another undersea backup cable. He said the fibre optic cable is fast, quicker and reliable than the satellite internet.
Musk had earlier shown interest in Tonga’s plight. Less than a week after the eruption, he asked on Twitter: “Could people from Tonga let us know if it is important for SpaceX to send over Starlink terminals?”, reported Stuff.
New Zealand politician Dr Shane Reti wrote to Musk asking him to help provide a Starlink connection. After the reports from Fiji emerged, Reti tweeted: “Very pleased. Elon Musk providing satellite to Tonga.”