Govt launches review into Triple Zero network failure during Optus’ outage

The Federal Government has announced a review into the telecommunications industry following Optus’s widescale network outage earlier this month, with a specific focus on emergency calls, customer communications and complaints handling.

In particular, the review will look into the functioning of the Triple Zero network during the outage, including whether changes are required to ensure continued access to emergency services during an outage.

Further to that, it will examine the role of government, more broadly, in managing and responding to national service outages and the adequacy of requirements for customer communication.

The review is expected to result in recommendations regarding the adequacy of customer complaints handling and the processing of compensation for consumers and small businesses, as well as the circumstances in which other networks may be relied on to support a network that is subject to a major outage.

The Government has appointed Richard Bean, who was the deputy chair of the ACMA for over seven years, to lead the Review. Bean has a long and distinguished history of involvement with the communications sector and currently serves as an Executive Director for Ad Standards and sits on the Nominations committee of auDA, the administrator of Australia’s .au top-level domain.

The Review will consult widely with industry and consumer stakeholders as well as with the Australian Government and state and territory agencies. A report will be handed to the Government by 29 February 2024.

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

The outage, which took place on 8 November, affected approximately 10 million people and caused significant disruptions across both government and private sectors.

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

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

In September 2022, Optus suffered a data breach which resulted in the leaking of sensitive customer information, including their names, birthdates, addresses, contacts and passport or driving licence numbers.