Elon Musk donates satellite gear to wireless Tonga

Pacific nation's telecoms system has been severely restricted since the volcanic eruption on January 15

A handout photo made available by the Australian Government Department of Defence shows Australian Army soldiers 2nd Combat Engineer Regiment clearing debris on Atata Island, Tonga.
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Tonga says space entrepreneur and Tesla founder Elon Musk has donated 50 satellite terminals to help the volcano-damaged Pacific island reconnect with the world.

Tonga's telecoms system has been severely restricted since January 15 when a violent volcanic eruption and tsunami severed its underwater fibre-optic cable.

Mr Musk's SpaceX corporation is providing 50 very-small-aperture terminals (VSAT) “and we are looking at how we can best utilise it”, Tongan Prime Minister Siaosi Sovaleni said on Friday.

The tiny South Pacific nation was also considering offers to increase Tonga's internet capacity, which has been operating on a very small bandwidth since the cable was broken.

“It's something we are testing right now,” he said.

Technical staff from SpaceX and the Tongan government were working on installing the equipment to have it operational from next week.

The volcanic eruption, so powerful it was heard as far away as Alaska and which triggered a tsunami that flooded coastlines around the Pacific, shredded an 80-kilometre stretch of Tonga's undersea telecoms cable.

Mr Sovaleni said he expected temporary repairs to be completed early next week.

Updated: February 19, 2022, 12:23 AM