'Sending aroha to our Tongan whānau' - major telcos offer free calling, texts

By Marena Mane

Major telecommunication companies in Aotearoa - Spark, Vodafone, and 2degrees - have all offered free calling and texting to Tonga.

Spark, New Zealand's largest telecommunications company, has stated that itwill be waiving all charges for calls and texts to Tonga.

"Our thoughts are with the people of Tonga and our Tongan community in Aotearoa, Spark said in their Facebook post on Sunday.

"We know how important it is to connect with loved ones in a situation like this, and are waiving all charges for calls and texts to Tonga* from any Spark mobile or landline from today, until next Sunday (Jan 23).

"Unfortunately, communication in Tonga is difficult right now due to the damage caused by weather events, so immediate contact may not be possible, but we want to make it as easy as possible for our customers to connect with their kâinga in Tonga when they can, without the additional stress of having to worry about incurring extra costs.

*For landline and pay-monthly mobile customers, calls and texts to Tonga will be credited and applied to your next bill. For prepay customers, calls and texts to Tonga will reduce your prepay balance, but this will be credited by our billing team and reapplied to your balance within a 24 hour period."

Vodafone says they will be crediting calling charges to Tonga on all Vodafone mobiles and landlines over the next week.

"As communications are progressively restored, Vodafone will be crediting calling charges to Tonga on all Vodafone Mobiles and Landlines over the next week to allow our customers to contact whanau and friends in Tonga following the awful events of yesterday," Vodafone said. 

2degrees is waving costs for all landline and mobile voice calls as well as texts to Tonga until midnight Sunday 23rd January.

"Malo e lelei. Sending aroha to our Tongan whānau. Our thoughts are with you and your community, both in Tonga and here in Aotearoa.

"To help keep everyone impacted connected, we are waiving costs for all landline and mobile voice calls as well as texts between Tonga and New Zealand until midnight on Sunday 23rd January.

"Due to the current events, access to the network in Tonga may be intermittent and not immediately available." 

All have stated on their Facebook pages that although calls to Tonga are free of charge, unfortunately, communication in Tonga is very difficult due to the devastating weather events, so immediate contact may not be possible.

However, the companies say they are doing their best to help whānau contact their loved ones without the added stress of additional costs, like an expensive phone bill.