Vava'u and Ha'apai Suffer Third Cable Blackout

Tonga's Vava'u and Ha'apai islands face their third cable blackout since June 29, likely caused by earthquake-induced landslides.By Katalina Siasau, Matangi Tonga
July 10, 2024

A total communications failure on Tonga's only inter-island domestic submarine cable has continued to severely impact telephone and internet services to the outer islands since 29 June, and it is likely to be several weeks before it is known how long it might take for normal services to be restored.

Tonga Cable Acting CEO, Sosafate Kolo said the cause of the disruption to the cable is unknown. He told a media conference on 5 July that the local telecommuncations operators networks had switched to satellite with limited capacity, in the meantime.

Tonga Cable believed that the cable damage was caused by an earthquake that occured early morning on Saturday, 29 June, as the cable failure occured after the earthquake.

The earthquake happened at around 2:00am, while the communications issue to Vava'u and Ha’apai happened at 2:43am, before a total outage at around 3:30am.

We think that multiple landslides resulting from the earthquake happened at 2:43 am, and another landslide close to 3:30am that might have completely cut the cable.”

Sosafate noted the two faults on the cable are located at 73 km and 96 km from Tongatapu.

They believed the cable is suppressed at 73 km from Tongatapu, while at 96 km, the cable is completely cut.

Repair vessel underway

A repair vessel had departed from Singapore and was expected arrive in the region in the second half of this month, Sosafate said. So this meant the repair timeline is the end of this month.

The analysis of the issues would be confirmed once the repair ship arrived.

The amount of damage to the cable has not been confirmed.”

We have a spare cable for repair, but if the damage is more than 50 kilometres, we must postpone the repair until we have sufficient spare cable,” he said.

Limited services

Digicel Tonga CEO, Daniel Horan, stated that their customers lost connectivity to all services including voice, sms, and data services on Saturday, 29 June, in both Vava'u and Ha’apai.

On Sunday, 30 June, Digicel was able to get their backup satellite services working in Vava’u, which give them ability to switch on voice, SMS, and data services, however, not in the same capacity as they normally had.

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