Optus Outage in Australia Cuts Off Services for Millions

Penka Hristovska
Penka Hristovska Senior Editor
Penka Hristovska Penka Hristovska Senior Editor

Millions of Australians were left without phone and internet services and some trains stopped in Melbourne when a nationwide outage struck Optus, Australia’s second-largest telecommunications company. The Australian government announced an investigation into the incident on Thursday.

The outage began about 4 a.m. on Wednesday and lasted until 5:30 p.m, with issues reported in Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide, and Sydney. It affected more than 10 million Australians, which is 40% of the population, including 400,000 businesses, for much of Wednesday.

After the issue was resolved, Optus announced it’ll offer a bonus of 200 GB of data to affected customers as compensation.

“Eligible prepaid customers will be able to access unlimited data on weekends until the end of the year,” Optus added in the announcement.

The Optus outage wreaked havoc across the entire country at peak hours.

A long list of hospitals and banks in Australia said they couldn’t receive any calls. Australia’s no. 1 private hospital owner Ramsay Health Care said the outage affected phone services to its 70 hospitals and clinics. Other hospitals that reported being impacted included Bundoora Centre, Victorian Virtual Emergency Department, Northern Hospital Epping, Craigieburn Centre, Broadmeadows Hospital, and Kilmore District Hospital.

An Optus spokesperson urged customers to find another way to contact emergency service, pointing out that “triple-0 calls will not work from an Optus landline (fixed line telephone).”

“We encourage any customers who need to contact emergency services to use a mobile line to call triple-0,” an Optus spokesperson said. “Mobile calls to triple-0 will work if another carrier is available.”

They later explained that a protocol called “camping” has been activated, allowing anyone contacting triple-0 from an Optus mobile device to use another network when making an emergency call.

“I have spoken to the triple-0 operator, and they have confirmed that this camping mechanism is working, one of the reasons they know that is that they have compared time period from yesterday,” said communications Minister Michelle Rowland.

The entire Melbourne train network shut down for over an hour as commuters were urged to seek alternatives.

“Services are currently stopped due to a communications outage across the train network,” a spokesperson.

Around 1 pm a spokesperson for Optus said it’ll take a couple of hours for all services to be gradually restored.

“This may take a few hours for all services to recover and different services may restore at different sites over that time,” the spokesperson explained.

Optus blamed the outage on a “technical network fault.” CEO Kelly Bayer Rosmarin denied suspicions that it was the result of a hack. The company said it would conduct a “full, thorough, root-cause analysis” but didn’t reveal any more details.

Rowland released a statement saying the government’s launching a review of the incident. She added that industry regulator Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has begun its own assessment to determine whether Optus adhered to regulations requiring the transfer of emergency calls from mobile carriers to the Emergency Call Person.

“While we welcome that Optus services were restored over the course of the day, it is critical the government conducts a process to identify lessons to be learned from yesterday’s outage,” Rowland said.

The outage comes after Optus suffered a security data break in September last year that compromised information on current and former customers, such as email addresses, dates of birth, and even password numbers. The Australian government, at the time, launched an investigation into this breach to determine if the company took “reasonable steps” to protect users’ data.

About the Author
Penka Hristovska
Penka Hristovska
Senior Editor

About the Author

Penka Hristovska is an editor at SafetyDetectives. She was an editor at several review sites that covered all things technology — including VPNs and password managers — and had previously written on various topics, from online security and gaming to computer hardware. She’s highly interested in the latest developments in the cybersecurity space and enjoys learning about new trends in the tech sector. When she’s not in “research mode,” she’s probably re-watching Lord of The Rings or playing DOTA 2 with her friends.