In line with previously announced plans, commercial services have been launched over the fibre-optic cable which connects Tonga to Fiji and onward to a hub in Sydney. According to the Solomon Star, the Pacific Regional Connectivity Project financed the development of the submarine cable system, supported by the World Bank Group and the Asian Development Bank. Commenting on the development, Tongan Prime Minister Lord Tu’ivakano was cited as saying: ‘Today marks a historical occasion for Tonga and the beginning of a new era, as the Kingdom for the first time connects to high speed Internet … Faster internet speed and higher bandwidth at cheaper and more affordable prices is a real opportunity for Tonga.’
As reported by CommsUpdate last week, with Tonga Cable having taken over the cable system from the contractor on 31 July 2013, the link had already been tested ahead of the launch of commercial services. The project cost approximately USD25 million, lower than the initial budget of USD33 million, of which USD6.6 million was committed by TCC and USD26.4 million was to be provided by the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank. Tonga Cable Ltd. meanwhile became a Public Enterprise on 10 May 2013, with Tonga Communications Corporation holding close to 20%, while the remaining 80% is held by the Tongan government.