Musk donates satellite equipment to reconnect Tonga

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Wellington (AFP) – Tonga says space entrepreneur and Tesla founder Elon Musk has donated 50 satellite terminals to help the volcano-damaged Pacific island reconnect to the world.

Tonga’s telecommunications system has been severely restricted since January 15, when a violent volcanic eruption and tsunami severed its undersea fiber optic cable.

Musk’s Space X company is providing 50 very small aperture terminals (VSATs) “and we are looking at how we can best use it,” Prime Minister Siaosi Sovaleni said on Friday.

The tiny South Pacific kingdom was also considering deals to boost Tonga’s internet capacity, which has operated on very little bandwidth since the cable broke.

“It’s something we’re testing right now,” he said.

Technical staff from SpaceX and the Tonga government were working on installing the equipment to be operational from next week.

The volcanic eruption, so powerful it was heard as far away as Alaska and triggered a tsunami that flooded Pacific coasts, shredded an 80 kilometer (50 mile) stretch of Tonga’s undersea telecommunications cable .

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

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