Optus is having a bad day of it, it seems, with a nationwide network outage of its mobile and Internet services.
Optus, by most measures the nation’s second-biggest telco is (as of the time of writing this) out for most users across the network for both mobile and fixed line services.
This would appear to include some critical infrastructure, including rail services in Melbourne, though the slightly early hour makes it difficult to assess exactly the scope and breadth of the situation.
Update: Those rail services in Melbourne are now back up and running, though as you might expect, out of service order.
Certainly based on simple social media reporting, the issues would appear to be widespread, with user complaints stretching from Perth to Sydney around mobile and broadband outages, starting roughly around 3am-4am this morning.
For its part, Optus’ service status page currently has a header reading:
“Our engineers are currently investigating a network fault that is impacting Optus Mobile & Fixed customers, we apologise for any inconvenience caused”
Which… doesn’t tell you all that much, really, apart from the fact that some Optus engineers are probably having a very bad day right now.
And a similar message on Twitter/X:
We’re aware of an issue impacting Optus mobile and nbn services and are working to restore services as quickly as possible. We understand connectivity is important and apologise for any inconvenience caused.
— Optus Help (@optus_help) November 7, 2023
Update: OK, this is odd — as of 8:50am or so, Optus’ service status page returns a result that suggests that towers will come back online imminently… but it just rolls over, minute by minute.
Which hopefully means that a fix is being rolled out that should hit Optus customers… soon?
Or… not. Now the same searches just return a fault message with no timing attached:
I’m also starting to see more messages from affected companies, with Evie Networks noting in an email to customers that “some of our sites are temporarily unavailable due to an ongoing Optus outage” — though if you have an Evie RFID tag that you’ve previously at a charging site, that should apparently work.
Update: A source (who I trust) has indicated that apparently Optus business/corporate customers may have been advised that outages might continue through to around midday, with faulty routing tables from an external provider at fault for taking down Optus’ communications provisions today.
While Optus hasn’t yet put out any kind of official statement, that’s looking like a very painful and awkward morning for Optus customers that will continue for some time…
Update: Optus Chief executive Kelly Bayer Rosmarin, speaking on ABC Radio 702 has stated that Optus has tried “a number of paths of restoration so far. We have not had the results we have hoped for, and we’re pursuing every avenue to get everybody back online as soon as possible. When we have a identified root cause and a time for restoration we will be updating everybody as soon as we can”
As for root causes, she stated that “Our team is still pursuing every possible avenue. We had a number of hypotheses and each one so far that we’ve tested and put in place, the new actions have not resolved the fundamental issue, so we’re still working on it.”
She noted that “The mobile network and the fixed network is down. Although there are some customers who are still able to get their office Wi-Fi and connect that way, we may have some additional updates to provide in the next hour that would enable all customers to do that.”
She also noted (and she’s right) that 000 calls should still work from affected mobile phones — but not landlines. That’s in line with how those SOS services work, because they roam to any available network in the event that your core network is down for smartphones and feature phones.
Update: So, it’s midday, and the Optus Network is still largely down. Which isn’t great, for sure, and to be honest I wasn’t planning to cover just the one story for the entirety of my morning either! But other factors will pull me away from it for a while.
It’s widespread, it’s bad, and there’s still no clear resolution timeframe or root identified cause — but that doesn’t stop people online speculating, because Internet. I’m rather hoping it’ll be fixed before (for example) the poll below closes:
We have movement — finally! For a start, I got up from my desk and had something to eat and attended to matters I was meant to be working on this morning… but you probably don’t care about that, do you?
Specifically, Optus says that the process of restoring its network is underway, and that users will start to see service resolved over the coming hours. In an update, it states that:
Some internet and phone services are gradually being restored.
This may take a few hours for all services to come back on line and different services may restore at different sites over that time. No action is required and services will be automatically restored.
We are aware of some mobile phones having issues connecting to 000. If Optus customers need to call emergency services, we suggest finding a family member or neighbour with an alternative device.
We apologise to customers for the nationwide service outage that has occurred this morning.
We will continue to provide updates as we have information available.
I’ve seen a bit of advice online suggesting jumping in and out of airplane mode or rebooting your phone to regain service “faster”, and while that’s probably illusory (without a control device, there’s really no way to know if you would have got service back from the local tower in that timeframe anyway), it’s probably not a terrible idea per se if you’re still offline.
If nothing else, it’ll help to pass the time.
Also, predictably, I’ve started to see pitches from competing, non-Optus network telcos spruiking their wares and ease of signup routines. I mentioned earlier on that Optus sits as the nation’s second-biggest telco, and it might be interesting to see how that plays out in the coming days.
What can you do when your telco’s network goes down?
Ultimately, use other sources of communications. At the time of writing if you’re an Optus customer and you’re reading this, it would appear the odds are good that this is exactly what you’re doing, though I have had some reader feedback that suggests that not every Optus customer is hit across both mobile and fixed line NBN services.
Optus’ outage won’t (likely) affect just “Optus” branded customers either, as it owns sub-brands such as amaysim, and many MVNOs use the Optus network as their backbone; if Optus is down for Optus itself it seems unlikely that they wouldn’t be affected, unless it’s some kind of terribly specific software bug that’s just blocking Optus-identified customers out.
No official word from Optus itself at this time, though it’s likely there won’t be one until issues are rectified or at least on the way to being rectified. Which, while frustrating, makes a certain degree of sense, because there’s not much point saying something until fixes are rolling out.
That being said, it’s also perhaps not comforting to Optus customers for its service status page to read for any address lookup that they haven’t had any reports of issues right now, so I can 100% understand the frustration that Optus customers must be feeling.
This is generic, yes… but also less than helpful.
Can I get compensation from Optus for this?
Probably not — or at least not in the way that you might think of compensation working.
Looking at Optus’s standard mobile contract terms, the relevant clauses around outages are as follows:
10.3 Complaints about loss of access to the service
Where your complaint is about a significant loss of access to, or use of, the service and the loss was not as a result of circumstances reasonably attributable to you or equipment that we are not responsible for, such as equipment that is owned by you or is not leased or provided by us (or our personnel) for you to use in connection with the service, you
(a) will be entitled to a refund or a rebate of any access fees for the period in which your access or use was interrupted (including when an intervening event occurs). The service description may set out the way in which any rebate or refund is calculated; and
(b) may be entitled to cancel the service under clause 11.1(a)(ii)(A) below.
You should contact customer service to lodge your complaint.
What that boils down to is that the compensation that you might get out of Optus would relate to the access fees for the downtime period.
Right now that’s only a matter of hours, which means for (for example) a basic $69/month plan on a 30 day month (like November) you’re paying for 720 hours of access at 9.58c per hour, or thereabouts. So if Optus got service back up by 9am (here’s hoping!) then given a start time of 4am, you’d be entitled to at most 47.9 cents.
No, they’re not obliged to reimburse you for lost business or other calamities, though it seems likely that the company may make some kind of make-good gesture to avoid customers leaving en masse if this rolls on for too long. But that’s PR and marketing, not legal obligation.
This is… not good for Optus for sure, though it’s really going to be a question of quite how long it persists for.
I’ve seen the suggestion online that it’s the “biggest” outage in Australian telco history — and that’s hardly true, as we’ve had service outages bigger in the past (anyone but me remember #Vodafail, or when Telstra seemingly had rolling daily outages?). But again, that will depend on just how long it takes Optus to restore services — and what it says about causes once it does.