Elon Musk has responded to National MP Shane Reti’s urgent plea that he help Tonga with its telecommunications difficulties following last week’s volcanic eruption and tsunami.
In a letter to the SpaceX founder, National’s Pacific Peoples’ spokesperson said it had been brought to his attention that the underwater telecommunications link with Tonga had been damaged in the eruption.
“I am respectfully asking if you could see your way please to providing urgent Starlink internet communications to public officials and the good people of Tonga in this moment of need,” Reti wrote.
Musk tweeted in response to the letter: “This is a hard thing for us to do right now, as we don’t have enough satellites with laser links and there are already geo sats that serve the Tonga region. That is why I’m asking for clear confirmation.”
That answer followed another tweet replying to a Reuters news story. In it, Musk asked Tongans to confirm “if it is important for SpaceX to send over Starlink terminals”.
Starlink, developed by Musk’s company, aimed to provide high-speed, low-latency broadband internet across the globe.
In SpaceX's first mission of 2022, 49 Starlink satellites were launched into orbit.
Since the eruption and tsunami on January 16, Tonga has largely been cut off from the rest of the world because of the break in its undersea cable.
That fibre-optic cable links the kingdom to Fiji. From there, it connects Tonga to the internet.
Communications to and from Tonga continue to be challenging, with US cable company SubCom advising it could take at least four weeks for repairs to be completed.
On Thursday evening, limited phone service to Tonga was established.
Digicel was also able to get 2G connectivity back up via a satellite link. But, it’s patchy in places.