After a massive volcanic eruption that severed Tonga's internet connection to the world, a Fiji official tweeted Monday that a team of SpaceX engineers are in the process of establishing Starlink internet for the devastated island.
Last month, an undersea volcano about 40 miles north of Tonga's main island unleashed a massive shockwave that severed undersea internet communication lines with nearby Fiji. The volcanic eruption is believed to be the largest in three decades.
Fiji's Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum tweeted that a SpaceX team has arrived in Fiji and is working to "establish a Starlink Gateway station to reconnect Tonga to the world."
The Hunga Tonga volcano's shockwave shattered Tonga's internet connection, adding days of gut-wrenching uncertainty to disaster assessments. A @SpaceX team is now in Fiji establishing a Starlink Gateway station to reconnect Tonga to the world. Great initiative, @elonmusk!
Tonga lies about 500 miles east of Fiji, and reconnecting the undersea communication cables could be costly and time-consuming. Erecting a Starlink gateway ground station in Fiji is quick and inexpensive compared to fixing undersea cables. A ground station links satellites in space with ground-based internet data centers. Here's an example of a ground station in Utah.
Elon Musk offered to restore Tonga's internet services on an emergency basis. However, he said the connection would be "hard" to establish because there weren't enough geostationary satellites that would connect the island.
Sayed-Khaiyum told the Fijian Broadcasting Corporation that SpaceX engineers would operate the ground station in Fiji for six months. Musk's space internet company has more than 1,800 Starlink satellites in orbit and 145,000 users globally (as of January).
Depending on Starlink satellites, Tongans could receive high-speed internet ranging from 50Mbps to 150Mbps (or more). To receive internet, households, businesses, and government agencies on the island who want to use the service must have a Starlink dish and special modem.
The news of providing space internet to Tonga comes as Musk promises "rapid" Starlink antenna production despite a massive ongoing chip shortage.