SES allows Digicel to restore first international calls in Tonga

A general view from a New Zealand Defence Force P-3K2 Orion surveillance flight shows heavy ash fall over Nomuka in Tonga after the Pacific island nation was hit by a tsunami triggered by an undersea volcanic eruption January 17, 2022. New Zealand Defence Force/Handout via REUTERS

SES, a telecommunications company, announced Friday that it has allowed Digicel to restore vital communications with the outside world following the Hunga Tonga-Ha’apai volcano eruption that sent tsunami waves across the Pacific Ocean.   

The first international calls service from Tongatapu offered by Digicel has been up since Wednesday, with both SES and Digicel teams working on restoring more vital communications services in the coming days.  

Tonga was hit by devastating tsunamis, On Saturday 15th January, created by several eruptions of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai volcano, which is situated 65km north of Tonga’s main island Tongatapu.  

The operator group’s regional CEO, Shally Jannif, stated that “International calls were now possible on the islands of Tongapatu and ‘Eua via a satellite link which uses 2G networks. Currently, only 400 calls can be made at any one time, but Jannif confirmed that Digicel is receiving additional amplifiers and satellite modems to boost output power and capacity.”  

On his part, Digicel Tonga CEO Anthony Seuseu said, “With satellite partners such as SES, we have been able to establish international calls for our customers as soon as possible, and will increase capacity to provide more services in the next few days. We know how vital it is at times like this to keep people connected. We take that responsibility very seriously and are focused on doing everything we can to ensure people are able to communicate with their loved ones in these difficult times.”  

In addition, TeleGeography reported that the islands of Ha’apai and Vava’u will be connected in the coming days by additional satellite antennas, although Jannif noted that damage to Tonga’s international submarine cable must be repaired before normal services can resume.  

“We expect to put up all basic services in the next few days, and then we hope to install more equipment to bring GPRS and 3G basic data services up so bank ATMs, EFTPOS, and other services can be up in Tonga,” she noted.  

On Tuesday, Digicel said its network in Tongatapu was active. However, its network would not be fully restored until the subsea cable linking Tonga to Fiji was restored. As such, the ship CS Reliance that will undergo the repairments has been tasked with the job and is en route from Papua New Guinea.