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Overview

Mobile phone and internet services are available throughout the country, including smaller and more remote communities. As of 2015, there are approximately 13,000 fixed line phones connections, approximately 70,000 mobile phone subscribers, and approximately 2100 fixed broadband internet connections in Tonga. The number of fixed phone connections are decreasing, whilst mobile phone connections have been experiencing steady growth. There is competition in the telecommunications sector.

Connectivity from the main island of Tongatapu to outer islands via microwave connectivity is improving the data speeds accessible on the outer islands, by reducing the dependency on satellite-based internet connectivity. Tongatapu was connected to a submarine cable in 2013.

AM radio remains one of the most important communication channels in Tonga to reach communities for early warning and disaster recovery messages. AM radio plays an important role in sending messages to outer island communities including information about scheduled arrivals of shipping and airline services, and has a vital role in broadcasting regular weather reports and cyclone and tsunami warnings. It is a vital lifeline during times of natural disasters. The Government of Tonga is working with the JICA (Government of Japan) to increase the resilience of the AM radio network in the country.

There are two telecommunications network operators in Tonga, namely, Digicel and TCC. Digicel Tonga (formerly TonFon) is a privately owned company and Tonga Communications Corporation (TCC) is a state owned public enterprise. TCC has a strategic partnership alliance with Vodafone Fiji.

In August 2016, Digicel Tonga announced that it will soon launch microwave connectivity to Tonga’s outer islands. This will increase internet speed from 1Mbps to 5Mbps with 200Mbps capacity, which is 5 times faster than the current speed on the outer islands and match data experience on Tonga’s main island of Tongatapu.

There are no restrictions on obtaining SIM cards for mobile telephone connectivity. Photo identification must be supplied when purchasing a SIM card. Data plans are readily available.

For more information on telecoms contacts, please see the following link: 4.2.8 Tonga Additional Service Provision Contact List

Telephone Services

Is there an existing landline telephone network?

Yes. Tonga Communications Corporation (TCC) is the only fixed line operator in Tonga with a 100% market share on fixed telephone lines. TCC is a public enterprise and falls under the Tonga Ministry of Public Enterprise.

Does it allow international calls?

Yes, international calling is available from fixed and mobile networks.

Number and Length of Downtime Periods (on average)

 Information not available. Occurs infrequently .

Mobile Phone Providers

There are two mobile network operators – TCC (U-Call) and Digicel Tonga. Both mobile network operators offer GSM and 3G services, including mobile broadband.

Approximate Percentage of National Coverage

The Digicel network has coverage across Tonga except to the northern group of islands, called Nuias. It has backup systems running on generators, solar with batteries.

 

The UCall (TCC) network covers all of Tonga including the northern group of islands such as Niuafo‘ou, Niuatoputapu, Nomuka and Ha‘afeva.

Telecommunications Regulations

The Department of Communications, under the Ministry of Meteorology, Energy, Information, Disaster Management, Environment, Climate Change and Communications (MEIDECC), is the party responsible for licensing relating to frequencies, and importation of telecommunications equipment. The Kingdom of Tonga is a party to Tampere Convention via accession. The Tampere Convention provides concessions relating to the importation of telecommunications equipment during disaster times.

 

Regulations on Usage and Import

 

Regulations in Place?

Regulating Authority

Satellite

Yes

Department of Communications, under the Ministry of Meteorology, Energy, Information, Disaster Management, Environment, Climate Change and Communications (MEIDECC)

www.mic.gov.to

HF Radio

Yes

UHF/VHF/HF Radio: Handheld, Base and Mobile

Yes

UHF/VHF Repeaters

Yes

GPS

Yes

VSAT

Yes

Individual Network Operator Licenses Required

Yes. Department of Communications, MEIDECC (www.mic.gov.to)

Frequency Licenses Required

Yes. Department of Communications, MEIDECC (www.mic.gov.to)

Existing Humanitarian Telecoms Systems

Various telecommunications systems are in place in Tonga, including a VHF and HF radio network that is used by the NEMO and Meteorological services. A discussion is underway to implement a common emergency channel shared between first response agencies (proposal is to reuse the existing frequencies already used by the NEMO). In the event of disaster it is recommended that the humanitarian community configure the existing radio channels used by the NEMO (with approval from the NEMO and Met Services). The Tonga Red Cross have satellite phones at various locations.

Existing Telecommunication Systems

 

UN

Met Service/ NEMO

Coastal Radio

Police

Fire

Defence

Dept of Communications

VHF Frequencies

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

UHF only

Yes

N/A

HF Frequencies

No

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

Yes

N/A

Locations of Repeaters

N/A

0

0

Unknown

Unknown

Unknown

N/A

VSAT

No

-

-

-

-

-

Currently deploying a VSAT network (with ITU) at multiple sites.

Internet Service Providers (ISPs)

Internet is available on all islands, and organisations can contract directly with private ISPs for their internet service. Major ISPs are DigiNET (Digicel) and Kalianet (TCC). Internet over mobile broadband is also available subject to the network coverage of the mobile network operators (Digicel and TCC).

Internet Service Providers

Are there ISPs available?

ISPs available in Tonga, specifically Digicel and TCC.

 

TCC's ISP service is called “Kalianet”. Kalianet is available throughout Tongatapu (main island), Ha'apai, Vava'u, and 'Eua using WiMax broadband, and through dial-up from the two Niuas (northernmost islands). TCC also offers leased line services, and mobile broadband through their U-Call mobile network.

 

Digicel’s ISP service is called “DigiNET”. It offers high speed internet connectivity across Tonga.

 

The introduction of an undersea high-speed fibre-optic cable in 2013 by Tonga Communications Limited (TCL) has delivered higher speed internet to Tonga. The cable station termination point is located in Sopu, Nuku’alofa. The submarine cable links Tonga to Fiji and then on to Sydney via the South Cross Cable Network.

If yes, are they privately or government owned?

TCC is a government owned enterprise. Digicel Tonga is privately owned.

 

In October 2015, the Tongan government passed the new Communications Bill 2015 (Communications Act 2015 and the Communications Commission Act 2015) which gave increased powers to the government in regards to controlling internet access. 

Dial-up only?

 No. Higher speed connections are available.

Approximate Rates (local currency and USD - $)

Dial-up

 Varies

Broadband

 Varies

Max Leasable ‘Dedicated’ Bandwidth

 Dedicated links can be purchased from Digicel and TCC.

 

Mobile Network Operators (MNOs)

There are two mobile network operators – TCC (U-Call) and Digicel Tonga. Both mobile network operators offer GSM and 3G services, including mobile broadband. The Digicel network has coverage across Tonga except to the northern group of islands, called Nuias. The UCall (TCC) network covers all of Tonga including the northern group of islands such as Niuafo‘ou, Niuatoputapu, Nomuka and Ha‘afeva. For other information on MNOs visit the GSM Association website.

Company

Number of Agent Outlets by Area

Network Strength by Area

Contracted for Humanitarian or Government Cash Transfer

Programmes?

Services Offered

(i.e. Merchant Payment,

Bulk Disbursement,

Receive & Make Payment)

TCC (UCall)

 N/A

The UCall nework covers all of Tonga including the northern group of islands such as Niuafo‘ou, Niuatoputapu, Nomuka and Ha‘afeva.

No information

Voice, data, SMS

Digicel Tonga

 N/A

The Digicel network has coverage across Tonga except to the northern group of islands, called Nuias.

No information

Voice, data, SMS.

Digicel Mobile Money.