Govt launches post-incident review into Optus outage

The Federal Government has launched a post-incident telecommunications review into last week’s Optus outage which affected approximately 10 million people and caused significant disruptions across both government and private sectors.

Minister for Communications, Michelle Rowland, said it was critical to “identify lessons to be learned” from the outage, which started around 4.00 am and lasted until at least the early afternoon of that day.

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

“I will task my Department with developing the terms of reference for a post-incident review. Further announcements around the terms of reference and next steps will be made in due course.

“The Government hopes the review may also help support major telecommunications providers to improve post-outage processes.”

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has independently commenced an assessment to investigate Optus’ compliance with the rules requiring that emergency calls are successfully carried from mobile carriers to the Emergency Call Person (Telstra).

ACMA said Optus confirmed that the outage had affected calls to the Triple Zero (000) service which under the Telecommunications (Emergency Call Service) Determination 2019 (the Determination) required telcos to ensure that emergency calls are successfully carried from each telecommunications provider to the Emergency Call Person (Telstra).

Under the Determination, there are also requirements for telecommunications operators to make information available to the community on the status of its networks in instances where its networks have been seriously disrupted and there is a direct impact on the emergency call service.

This includes calls to Triple Zero, 112, and to 106, the text-based National Relay Service for people who have a hearing or speech impairment.

ACMA said it had “strong concerns” about the impact of prolonged Optus outage on access to Triple Zero services and decided to commence an initial assessment to investigate Optus’ compliance with rules requiring telecommunications carriers.

“With its network restored, Optus is required to conduct welfare checks on people who have tried calling Triple Zero during a significant network outage if they were unable to connect to Triple Zero. The ACMA will be seeking information from Optus about its compliance with these rules shortly,” ACMA said in the press release.

Optus’ chief executive, Kelly Bayer Rosmarin, has said a “technical network issues” were behind the outage and there was no indication of a cyber attack.

The outage impacted all internet, cellular and fixed-line services using the Optus network across Australia.

Optus, which the second-largest telco in Australia and is owned by Singapore-based SingTel (Singapore Telecommunications), has contacted its customers to offer them “at least 200GB of extra data” to thank for their patience during the outage.

In September 2022, Optus suffered a data breach which resulted in leaking the information about their customers such as their names, birthdates, addresses, contacts and passport or driving licence numbers.