The wait for reliable connectivity is not going to be over for Tonga for some while. Recent reports suggest that the cable connecting the Tongan islands, which was ripped apart by January's devastating volcanic eruption and tsunami, could take a year to fix.
Although the Southern Cross Cable, connecting Tonga to the world, was repaired just over a week ago, up to 110 km of submarine cable may be needed before the country can repair the damage to its domestic system.
The Radio New Zealand website quotes Tonga Cable chief executive James Panuve as saying that this is a special cable that may have to be manufactured in France. It is not easily sourced locally; no neighbouring cable operators have any of this cable type.
“We are looking worldwide for anyone with spare cable of this type, failing which, we will need to order it from Alcatel in France, which could take six to nine months to manufacture and deliver,” he said.
The cable ship Reliance departed the cable site on Monday after successfully recovering both ends of the domestic cable. However, the middle section could be more problematic as it may have been deeply buried under debris from the volcano eruption of 15 January. “Without proper survey equipment it is hard to tell what has happened to the cable system. Water depth in this area is between 1.6 to 1.8 km," Panuve said.
The upshot is that a year is the repair estimate at the moment.