Optus has blamed a "technical network fault" after eight chaotic hours of outages across Australia after the government called on the telecommunications giant to detail the core network issue it was crippled by.
The phone and internet connections of 10 million customers and 400,000 businesses were affected, but the far-reaching impacts even hit non-Optus customers as payments couldn't be taken, people couldn't reach their loved ones or colleagues, the public transport system went down and some couldn't contact Triple-0.
CEO Kelly Bayer Rosmarin wouldn't go any further as the "root cause" had not yet been determined shortly after Communications Minister Michelle Rowland called on the embattled telco to improve their communications when she revealed the "deep fault" before them.
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“It does underscore how essential telecommunications are to our everyday lives," Rowland said.
"I think that is all the more reason why it is important to have the most timely information available to customers because they need to go about their business as consumers, they need to go about their lives, and they rely on these services so much.”
After the minister's statements, Bayer Rosmarin said: "Until we've done a full, thorough, root cause analysis, we can't really provide more information."
"What I can say is that it was a technical network issue and that our teams have worked very, very hard to get services restored as quickly as they possibly could."
The carrier may be facing a mass exodus of fed up customers, with damning photographs showing people lining up outside Vodafone and Telstra. One woman even offered $150 for a $2 non-Optus SIM card.
What has Optus said about the outage? When will services be back and was it a hack?
Earlier today, Optus released a statement notifying customers services were "gradually" coming back online but warned customers it would take "a few hours".
Bayer Rosmarin earlier assured customers the cause was not a cyberattack after the government expressed a similar sentiment. She had to dial in on WhatsApp to apologise for the major bungle as even her phone was out.
"We're really, really sorry that this outage has occurred," Rosmarin said.
The telco giant was embroiled in controversy last year, when millions of phone and internet users had their sensitive information stolen in one of the biggest cyberattacks in Australian history, with the hack still fresh in customers’ minds.
Safety concerns have trumped general frustration as the communications minister confirmed that while mobiles can make triple-0 calls - as callers are transferred to another carrier - landlines cannot.
Yahoo Finance understands the outage started around 4:00am, with 8,900 outage reports to Downdetector within the hour.
Carriers that use the Optus network, including Amaysim and Aussie Broadband, were also impacted.
We encourage any customers who need to contact emergency services to use a mobile line to call 000.
Optus can confirm that Triple zero ("000") calls will not work from an Optus landline (fixed line telephone). Mobile calls to 000 will work if another carrier is available.
— Optus Help (@optus_help) November 7, 2023
Banks, public transport, hospitals and businesses crippled by Optus outage
Metro Trains in Melbourne reported issues with the transport network about 4:40am but resumed just after 6:00am, but major delays and cancellations were still expected.
Hospitals and health services have also been impacted by the outage, with Northern Health in Melbourne saying phone lines to its campuses were down, along with Ramsay Health Care and the NSW Poisons Information Centre.
Commonwealth Bank has also warned customers they may encounter difficulties when contacting or receiving messages from the bank, including NetCode. It said customers could still message it through the CommBank app, but there may be delays.
Uber prices were also surging across the country because drivers on the Optus network were forced offline by the outage.
Rowland encouraged businesses to keep receipts for when the time for compensation came.
"It is important, especially for small businesses, to keep receipts so that any recourse and any redress that may be available to them has that evidentiary base," Rowland said.
Rosmarin said customers could be entitled to compensation for the outage, and that the company would do everything it could to give "great service".
Case against going cashless
Frustrated Optus customers said the outage was another reason why Australia should not become a cashless society.
“The #Optus outage this morning is exactly why we cannot go cashless. When the phones are down, how are people going to pay for stuff?” one person said.
“Imagine having [sic] cashless in our country and having no internet access due to outage, we’re doomed,” another wrote.
Optus outage: What you need to know
Who is impacted? Up to 10 million mobile, landline and broadband customers have been without service since early Wednesday morning.
What caused the outage: Optus hasn't said but the government revealed a core network fault.
Is it a cyber attack? All signs point to no.
How long will it last? Some services have come back but it could "take hours" before everyone has service again.
Could I call triple-0? On mobiles, yes because you will be transferred to an alternate network but, on landlines, no.
Does it matter if I am not with Optus? You could argue the vast majority of Australia has been impacted in one way or another. There’s been a trickle-down from direct customers to bigger businesses or services that use Optus, from hospitals and public transport to Uber drivers or the local cafe.