Rural and remote communities in Tonga will now have broadband Internet access, following the lifting by Tongan authorities of earlier restrictions placed on Singaporean-based satellite service provider Kacific Broadband Satellites Ltd.
“Kacific has now been cleared by the Tongan telecommunications regulator to provide services to several telecom operators and service providers within Tonga, making fast high-quality broadband available throughout the Kingdom,” Kacific CEO, Christian Patouraux said in a statement.
“We’re extremely pleased that we have now been able to resolve the impasse in providing connectivity. We have many friends and partners in Tonga who are aware that we understand and deeply sympathise with the difficulties they have been facing. Their efforts have helped us secure the approvals we needed to provide this essential service,” Patouraux said.
The green light comes almost two weeks after Tonga’s severe volcanic eruption damaged its undersea cable, cutting off vital international communication links.
What could have easily been a back-up satellite service option by Kacific was instead frustrated by an unresolved dispute it had with the Tongan government, dating back to the first cable damage in 2019.
An offer by Kacific last week to provide connectivity to Tonga via its geostationary satellite Kacific1 remained unanswered for days.
“The breakthrough happened on Thursday, when the regulator lifted a ban on the use of Kacific’s services which Kacific understands was imposed due to arbitration proceedings between Kacific and the Tongan Government,” said Patouraux.
“Kacific is now able to provide over 1GBPS of satellite capacity to Tonga, as required. It has been offering this capacity since last Friday, and people are already using the service.
Bandwidth from Kacific1 can be shared among the telecom operators and service providers, enabling immediate relief to emergency services. The bandwidth can later be redirected and used for a wide range of activities: supporting mobile networks, connecting communities in remote outer islands or providing high-quality internet connectivity to businesses and agencies.”
Kacific now joins Australian satellite peer Speedcast, who had begun restoring communication services on Tonga last week via bandwidth provision to Tonga Communications Corporation.
Meanwhile, European satellite company SES also announced last week its partnership with Digicel Tonga for Internet provision via Digicel network.
Tonga is an archipelago of 169 islands, of which 36 are inhabited and around 82,000 or 80 percent of its population live in rural areas.
Its previous sole reliance on satellite for international communication ended in 2013 when the Southern Cross Cable Network landed there via an 827km-long cable leg from SCCN’s Fiji landing at FINTEL.
A further domestic extension of the cable is only limited to three major islands – Tongatapu, Ha’apai and Va’vau – making satellite options a crucial aspect in the provision of telecommunication services to Tonga’s remote and rural communities.