Loss of Tonga’s telecommunication – what happened, how was it managed and what were the consequences?

Policy Brief
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Themes
Oseania  Klima  Hav  Energi
Written by

Niels Nagelhus Schia

Seniorforsker, leder for Forskningsgruppen for sikkerhet og forsvar og leder for NUPIs forskningssenter for digitalisering og cybersikkerhet

 

Ida Rødningen

PRIO

Summary:

In January 2022 the subsea volcano Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha’apai in Tonga had a major eruption which also cut the country’s communication lines nationally, between Tonga’s inhabited islands and the outside world. The damage led to a complete halt in international communication (a “digital darkness”) which meant that, in the period immediately after the outbreak, not much was known about the extent of the damage in Tonga. Due to very limited access to contact with both the authorities and the population of Tonga, it was only during overflights carried out by the Australian and New Zealand air forces that one could begin to map the extent of the damage and the need for assistance.