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Australia to investigate Optus internet and phone outage

SYDNEY: Australia said on Thursday it would launch an investigation into a 12-hour national outage at telco Optus that cut off internet and phone connections to nearly half of its population, hitting critical services including payments, transport and hospitals.

More than 10 million Australians, 40 per cent of the population, were hit by the network blackout at the nation’s No 2 telco firm for much of Wednesday (Nov 8), triggering fury and frustration among customers and raising concerns about the country’s telecommunications infrastructure.

The federal government would undertake a post-incident review into the outage, Communications Minister Michelle Rowland said, describing its impacts as “particularly concerning”.

“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 in a statement.

Australia’s media regulator will conduct a separate review into the outage after emergency triple zero (“000”) calls went down on Optus landlines, Rowland added.

Optus, owned by Singapore Telecommunications, has not given the cause for the unprecedented outage, one of the biggest the country has witnessed. But it has ruled out for now any cyber hacks.

The outage happened 14 months after Optus was hit by one of Australia’s biggest cyber breaches. It was at the time severely criticised by the government for its slow response in reaching out to affected customers and responding to government queries.

Optus did not immediately respond to a request seeking comment about the government investigation.

The government said it hoped the probe would suggest ways to improve the post-outage processes of major telecommunications providers, which also include the nation’s largest, Telstra.

“It is critical that industry and governments take stock following large-scale outages, given no network is immune,” Rowland said.

The government would also check the possibility of allowing customers to switch to available networks when outages occur.

“The industry is prepared to be involved … it is feasible and we’re going to take this forward as a government,” Rowland told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

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