When the sole fibre cable connecting Tonga to the outside world was severed, satellite broadband from Kacific provided a digital lifeline to the island nation.
Satellite bandwidth crucial for fast response
Location: Tonga, Polynesia
In late January 2019, the international fibre-optic cable that connects the capital of Nukuʻalofa to high speed internet was severed. The smaller domestic cable connecting Nukuʻalofa to the wider islands was also severed. This meant that the nation couldn’t connect to large volume of bandwidth usually supplied by the cable, leaving most businesses and people without access to the internet or international phone calls. Tonga Cable, the operator of this sole fibre connection to the island nation, needed connectivity quickly to assist in diagnosing the outage and mobilising a repair ship. Government agencies and private firms also required bandwidth for vital applications and communications.
The news spread fast at the Pacific Telecommunications Council (PTC) Conference in Hawaii, where Kacific executive heard about the outage. Kacific already supplied a limited amount of bandwidth on a 1.8 metre dish to a local partner. At PTC, Kacific opened up their suite and access to the satellite connection for Tongan telecommunications providers and Government officials to use as a crisis centre. However, it was clear more bandwidth was needed urgently in Tonga to supply critical services.
The Kingdom of Tonga is a Pacific Island nation with 36 inhabited islands of its 169 total islands. These stretch across approximately 800 kilometres of water. The population of just over 108,000 people, of which 82,000 are classified as living in rural areas, usually consume around 2.4 Gbps of broadband bandwidth.
“Straight away Kacific sorted out a solution,” said Tonga Cable Director, Paula Piveni Piukala, “Using the back-up satellite connectivity helped us to make the repairs faster. They were very responsive.”
A 3.7 metre satellite terminal dish expected to receive Kacific’s bandwidth had previously been delivered to Tonga, however it had not yet been installed. Within 24 hours a Kacific engineer arrived in Nukuʻalofa to work with the local engineers to align and commission this terminal. This increased the bandwidth to 140 Mbps and it was distributed further through existing networks. Five additional 1.2m Kacific VSAT terminals were further deployed at critical government locations. Kacific’s fast and highly collaborative response during the fibre cut ensured that bandwidth was provisioned for the most critical applications such as the airport, the reserve bank, Government offices, the cable repairs and the meteorological service. The meteorological service is vital for public safety, because it monitors and communicates on natural disasters such as earthquake, tsunamis and tropical cyclones.
Satellite connectivity proved to be the fastest, simplest and most reliable back up source of broadband. Within 12 days, Tonga Cable had repaired the cable feeding bandwidth into the main island of Tongatapu.
Paula Piveni Piukala says that back-up connectivity solutions are very important, but the challenge for dispersed Pacific Island nations with small populations is the high cost of infrastructure. “The small islands in the Pacific need to band together and take a regional Pacific position. Advanced technology and better connectivity, which can help our economies, can only be realised if the Pacific Islands work together.”
“What I like most about Kacific, is that they really understand our context,” said Paula Piveni Piukala. “They understand the attitude of the Pacific and are clear in addressing our specific needs.”