‘Australians need to have confidence in our telco services’: Optus disaster leads to sector overhaul

Sweeping changes will be made to Australia’s telecommunications industry, following a review of Optus’ “inadequate” response to a nationwide outage that saw lives put at risk and businesses taken offline for an entire trading day, as well led to the resignation of CEO Kelly Bayer Rosmarin.

Communications Minister Michelle Rowland said all 18 recommendations made to the government by an independent review into the sector would be agreed to, including “new rules mandating how, what and when telecommunications carriers communicate with their customers during and after a major outage”.

There will also be a triple-zero “custodian” appointed to monitor the service and hold the telcos to frequent stress testing, after close to three thousand Australians were unable to access emergency services during the recent Optus outage. Telcos will be required to share all real-time network information with emergency services in the case of any outages.

Each telco must also “provide work plans to the regulator following a major outage, to explain how an impacted telco will mitigate the risk of a similar outage in future”.

Rowland said that “Australians need to have confidence in our telecommunications services, particularly when it comes to triple zero.

“Last year’s Optus outage and the Telstra triple zero fault earlier this year highlights vulnerabilities in the system. The review identified opportunities every part of the system need to do better, and these recommendations will help us do just that.”

Rowland called the review “the most comprehensive examination of the triple-zero ecosystem in over a decade”.

“It means we have a workable blueprint to implement changes that will help improve the resilience of telecommunications in this country. The review identified opportunities every part of the system need to do better, and these recommendations will help us do just that.”

Richard Bean, who was the deputy chair of the ACMA for over seven years, was tasked with leading the review. He found Optus’ communication to impacted customers “inadequate”, but noted the failings highlighted in his review are all able to be fixed.

“There is a great deal we can learn from this outage,” Bean said.

“We need to act on and implement what we have learnt to ensure that Australia is better prepared for future outages, and most critically, that the emergency call service is delivered within a robust and reliable framework.”

This new framework is more vital than ever now that the ACCC has greenlit a $1.6 billion regional network sharing deal between Optus and TPG/Vodafone that will see connection in these areas strengthened and TPG’s network reach expanded to 98.4% of the population.

A similar deal was floated between Telstra and TPG before the competition watchdog stamped it out, fearing a Telstra monopoly.


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