Network based systems

Southern Cross Cable cannot reach the center of the Tongan network ‘even by satellite phone’

The communications failure may be due to problems on the ground or a cut cable at sea.

Ray Kalonihea Tu’itakau/Facebook

The communications failure may be due to problems on the ground or a cut cable at sea.

Southern Cross Cable Network says it has been unable to reach a network center in Tonga, even by satellite phone, to find out why communications links to and from the country are down.

It could take weeks to fully restore telephone and internet connections in Tonga, based on past experience, in case its undersea communications cable to Fiji is cut by Saturday’s volcanic eruption or tsunami. .

More rudimentary satellite communications should be much faster to restore.

Repairing fiber cuts at sea is a complex job that requires specialist vessels and equipment, but Tonga's communication problems may be on land.

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Repairing fiber cuts at sea is a complex job that requires specialist vessels and equipment, but Tonga’s communication problems may be on land.

Tonga’s main communication link with the outer works is provided by the 872 kilometer Tonga Cable System.

The fiber optic submarine cable, majority-owned by the Tongan government, runs from the Tongan capital of Nuku’alofa to Suva in Fiji, where it connects to the Southern Cross Cable trans-Pacific network, which is part-owned by Spark.

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Southern Cross Cable Network sales manager Craige Sloots said shortly after 11 a.m. Sunday that at this point he didn’t have much information about what happened.

“Our network operations center can see that the Tonga service is down, and we can see from the cable station that the Tonga cable is ‘one-ended feed’, which means the power source of the Tonga end is down,” he said.

“At this stage, it is not clear whether this is due to the cable cut or a failure of the power supply equipment in Tonga.

“We are continuing to try to contact the Tonga Network Operations Center but at this stage we are unable to do so, even by satellite phone. Although we understand that Tonga also has satellite links, we do not know if the satellite ground equipment was affected. »

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Nuku’alofa-based Mary Fonua said the volcano’s eruption was “frightening”.

The Tonga cable was laid in 2013 and was cut in 2019 in an incident attributed to a ship’s anchor catching the cable, dragging it and breaking it.

It took two weeks for a cable repair vessel operated by undersea cable company TE Subcom to reach the site and repair it.

The Tongan government then signed a contract with the Singaporean company Kacific to upgrade its satellite communication links.

These can provide limited backup for international telephone and internet services and are also used to connect the outer islands to Nuku’alofa.

Kacific has been contacted for information on the status of its ground station infrastructure in Tonga.

Planet Labs photographed the Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha'apai volcano two hours before it erupted on Saturday and said it was working to collect images of areas affected by the tsunami it generated.

Planet Labs PBC

Planet Labs photographed the Hunga Tonga Hunga Ha’apai volcano two hours before it erupted on Saturday and said it was working to collect images of areas affected by the tsunami it generated.

Satellite phones are sometimes used by emergency services because they can connect directly to satellites in space without the need for ground infrastructure.

Further information on the situation in Tonga can come from aerial or satellite imagery.

California satellite company Planet Labs, which took a picture of the volcano just two hours before it erupted, said it was working to collect images of areas affected by the tsunami it generated.

Planet operates a fleet of approximately 200 satellites that circle the globe every 24 hours.

Spokeswoman Anne Pellegrino said she expected to take new photos later in the day New Zealand time of the volcano after it erupted.


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