SpaceX's Starlink helps restore the internet in volcano-hit Tonga

Is satellite internet more convenient than cable connection in the event of a disaster?
Ameya Paleja
The volcano explosion in Tonga.-NASA

A team of SpaceX employees is busy working to restore internet connection in the island nation of Tonga. Last month, a volcano in the ocean had triggered a tsunami severing the undersea cable and the island's connection with the rest of the world. 

While we might enjoy the benefits of high-speed internet wirelessly using data connections on our smartphones or routers in our homes and offices, the world remains connected through a network of cables that run over seabeds. It might sound surprising but internet companies are spending billions of dollars every year to improve internet speeds across the globe and Meta, formerly Facebook holds the record for the longest undersea cable ever to be laid. 

These cables connect nations of the world and do so at high speeds and are low-cost to operate. Unfortunately, to access them, one needs to reside in densely populated or urban areas. And even so, there is always the risk that an unforeseen incident, such as a disaster, can cut you off. In the case of volcano-struck Tonga, the severed cable could take more than a month to be repaired, BBC had reported.

Elon Musk's SpaceX offers the optimal solution in such a situation. Using a constellation of satellites, the company's Starlink aid can beam internet from the skies to even the most remote of locations, provided they have the proprietary receiving terminals. 

This is why Musk had asked people from Tonga whether SpaceX should send over Starlink terminals to the region or not on Twitter. However, Musk had also added that setting up internet in the region would be "hard" since there weren't enough Starlink satellites with laser links. 

Laser links are Starlink's own terminology for the next generation of its satellites that reduce the latency on its network. According to a PC Mag report in September last year, Starlink has been delaying launches since June to ensure that all its launched satellites are 'laser link' enabled, which will drastically improve its service. 

A tweet from a Fiji government official has now confirmed that a SpaceX team is in the country to help Tonga reconnect to the world. Fiji is approximately 500 miles (800 km) away from Tonga. 

According to Business Insider's report, the team will remain in Fiji for a period of six months and operate the ground station there. SpaceX's 1,800 satellite-strong Starlink already serves 145,000 customers globally and will hopefully be able to restore some communication between Tonga and the rest of the world. 

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