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Telstra boss apologises for triple-0 outage

WEEKEND READ - AUSTRALIAN ECONOMY
A ‘technical fault’, a ‘communication error’ and errant backup processes have been blamed for the outage. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Luis Enrique Ascui

Telstra boss Vicki Brady has issued a grovelling apology after a run of embarrassing failures resulted in the outage of triple-0 services last month that impacted more than 100 callers, including the family of one man who subsequently died.

On Wednesday, Ms Brady detailed the cause of the March 1 outage following a “thorough and forensic investigation” which found callers’ location and phone numbers – otherwise known as “calling line identification” – were not traceable by the network.

Telstra CEO Vicki Brady
Telstra boss Vicki Brady apologised for the outage which affected in excess of 100 callers. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Luis Ascui

In a statement released by the telecom giant on Wednesday and attributed to the Telstra boss, it revealed the issue was due to a “technical fault”, a problem with the telco’s “backup process” and a “communication error that occurred in the heat of the moment”.

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“Our technical team immediately began investigating the cause of the issue and working on a fix, while our triple-zero team enacted our backup process,” she said.

“That backup process involves our operator asking for the caller’s location and then manually connecting them to the relevant emergency service.

This process successfully connected 346 of the 494 calls made during the incident which commenced at approximately 3:30am, Ms Brady said.

However, a remaining 127 callers were not transferred through to emergency services as Telstra had incorrect phone numbers on its backup database.

WEEKEND READ - AUSTRALIAN ECONOMY
Telstra has deployed a software change to fix the fault in its calling line identification systems. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Luis Enrique Ascui

The 127 callers consequently had to wait for an email transfer and callback process, the investigation found, with some callers facing further delays as a staff member incorrectly entered the appropriate email address.

“When our team identified an issue with the phone numbers they resorted to email, and were supplied an updated email address for triple-0 Victoria during the incident,” Ms Brady said.

“This address was incorrectly entered into the system. Our team identified the error within 13 minutes, but this did still cause a delay.

“Ensuring we have the right contact numbers for emergency services operators is basic and something we should have gotten right.”

Within 90 minutes, regular service resumed.

Ms Brady apologised to those affected in the outage, particularly the family of a man who had suffered a cardiac arrest while triple-0 services were impacted.

It is not known if the delay contributed to the death.

“I want to reassure the Australian public that we have worked quickly to understand what occurred, learn from our mistakes and put in place improvements so that all Australians can trust that triple-0 will be there to support them,” Ms Brady said.

“The Australian public rely on triple-0 in their times of greatest need, and we let them down by not being prepared enough for the situation.”

By early April, Telstra plans to deploy a software change required to fix the fault in its calling line identification systems.