Why Did Elon Musk Donate 50 Satellite Terminals to Tonga?

By Benzinga
February 18, 2022 Updated: February 18, 2022

The government of Tonga announced Elon Musk’s SpaceX has donated 50 very-small-aperture terminals (VSAT) to help the South Pacific kingdom re-establish telecommunications connectivity with the world after underwater volcanic eruption and a tsunami on Jan. 15 severed its underwater fiber optic cable.

What Happened

According to a report from the Matangi Tonga Online news site, Prime Minister Siaosi Sovaleni confirmed the donation by the Tesla chief executive.

“They are sending over 50 terminals and we are looking at how we can best utilize it,” Sovaleni said, adding that his government was exploring strategies for increasing local internet capacity, which has been burdened with minimal bandwidth since the cable was broken.

“Now we’ve got a few free capacity from satellite orbitry,” he added.

What Else Happened

Sovaleni also noted efforts to enact a temporary fix on the underwater fiber optic cable were still underway.

“We are still on track to fix it by either Sunday or Monday, that’s for the international cable,” he said. “The domestic one might take a little bit longer.”

Paula Ma’u, CEO of Tonga’s Ministry of Communications, reported the government and SpaceX technical staff were working on the installation of the VSATs, with a launch date for next week.

“These terminals will be deployed at strategic locations throughout Tonga to ensure connection and communications are maintained, particularly for the disaster response operation,” Ma’u said.

By Phil Hall

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