/ 09 November 2023

An omnishambles for Optus

Image source: iStock
Image source: iStock

The Squiz

Yesterday wasn’t a great day to be an Optus customer – or their pet cat relying on a Wi-Fi feeder – with a national network outage affecting more than 10 million customers and 400,000 businesses. Analysts say it’s the biggest telco outage in our history. Services went down around 4am AEDT, and by early afternoon, CEO Kelly Bayer Rosmarin said things were getting back online. “We know how much everybody relies on our connectivity. We’re very, very sorry for this outage,” she said. 

What on earth happened? 

The company says it’s still investigating what was behind the outage, but it was confident yesterday that it wasn’t a cyberattack – it said a “technical network fault” was more likely. And network engineers reckon it could have been an early morning software update. Long story short, they’re not really sure yet… Regardless, it caused big problems across the country – Melbourne’s train services, hospitals and banks were early victims. And triple-zero calls weren’t going through in SOS mode – so customers were given advice to find “a family member or neighbour with an alternative device”. Small businesses were also hit hard. Some implemented an “honesty policy” for customers to return and pay when payment systems are back online. 

So why was it so bad?

Optus’s lack of clear information was widely criticised… Federal Communications Minister Michelle Rowland jumped in to urge it to be “transparent and timely” with its updates. That forced Bayer Rosmarin to reiterate the company’s remorse, saying “when I have more information about the root cause, I will be the first to let all our customers know”. Already, plenty has been said about the company’s response, given it should be match-fit after last year’s mega data breach. Another unanswered question relates to customer compensation, including businesses that couldn’t transact yesterday… When she was asked, Bayer Rosmarin said the company would consider “every possibility” in the coming days – and reports say one option being considered is extra customer data. How the company handles it will be something Rowland and the industry Ombudsman keep an eye on…

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