Optus services are beginning to be restored after a major outage caused hours of chaos, sending multiple hospitals, businesses and transport networks into disarray.
The outage started about 4am on Wednesday, with issues reported in Perth, Melbourne, Brisbane, Sydney and Adelaide.
The outage created major delays for commuters, impacted health services and affected online banking.
At 1pm, a spokesperson said some services across fixed and mobile were now gradually being restored.
“This may take a few hours for all services to recover and different services may restore at different sites over that time,” they said.
“We are aware of some mobile phones having issues connecting to triple-0. If Optus customers need to call emergency services, we suggest trying to find an alternative device.”
Optus chief executive officer Kelly Bayer Rosmarin spoke to ABC earlier in the day but would not reveal what likely caused the issue.
When asked about the possibility of the outage being caused by a hack, she said there was “no indication that it is anything to do with spyware at this stage”.
“The teams are trying many different angles and we will not rest until the service is back up for our customers.”
Her comments came as customers were urged to not attempt to contact emergency services from an Optus landline, as it will not work.
“We encourage any customers who need to contact emergency services to use a mobile line to call triple-0,” an Optus spokesperson.
“Optus can confirm that triple-0 calls will not work from an Optus landline (fixed line telephone). Mobile calls to triple-0 will work if another carrier is available.
“Our teams are working to restore services as soon as possible. We will provide an update as soon as we are able.
“We are currently working to identify the cause and apologise for any inconvenience.”
Communications Minister Michelle Rowland said the government would do everything in its power to assist Optus and called for transparency from the telecommunications giant.
She said the outage seemed to be caused by a fundamental fault to the network.
Customers with issues contacting triple-0 will be able to do so on mobile devices as a protocol called “camping” is in place, it allows an Optus mobile device to use another network when making the emergency call.
“I have spoken to the triple-0 operator, and they have confirmed that this camping mechanism is working, one of the reasons they know that is that they have compared time period from yesterday,” Ms Rowland said.
A Home Affairs department spokesperson said they have received “no indication that this is a cyber incident” but the nature of the outage is under ongoing investigation.
A number of businesses have decided to shut their doors on Wednesday after being unable to use their payment machines, and issue which has been raised by the government.
“Connectivity is essential for Australian consumers and businesses, and the impacts of this outage are concerning,” Ms Rowland said in a statement.
Commonwealth Bank has warned customers they may have some issues using online banking services as a result of the outage.
“You may encounter difficulties calling us and receiving SMS from us including Netcode,” the bank said in a pop-up alert shared with app users.
OUTAGE CAUSES CHAOS
The entire Melbourne train network was stalled for over an hour due to the outage, with commuters urged to take alternative transport.
“Services are currently stopped due to a communications outage across the train network,” a spokesperson posted to X – formerly known as Twitter – about 4.40am.
⚠ Metropolitan trains: Services are currently stopped due to a communications outage across the train network.
We are working to rectify this issue as soon as possible.
Please reconsider travel on the network and consider alternate travel arrangements until further notice. pic.twitter.com/36OaGosiMr
— Metro Trains (@metrotrains) November 7, 2023
“Please reconsider travel on the network and consider alternate travel arrangements until further notice.”
Just after 6am, all train services resumed across the Metro network though major delays were expected on all lines due to timetable alterations and cancellations.
A number of hospitals in Melbourne have also been impacted, with Northern Health saying its campuses were down.
“This includes phone lines into Northern Hospital Epping, Broadmeadows Hospital, Bundoora Centre, Craigieburn Centre, Kilmore District Hospital, and Victorian Virtual Emergency Department (VVED),” it said.
“We apologise for any inconvenience.”
Optus customers have been left less than impressed, with their days thrown into chaos, and some even considering changing providers.
One of those is Shane Spooner, an Optus customer who travelled to the Sydney Optus store to get answers from staff.
“It turned (my day) into chaos … I woke up to no calls, no internet on my phone, I tried to go on my laptop and had no home internet as well,” Mr Spooner said.
“I had a few online meetings booked this morning which all fell through, so that was cancelled … I’m a national retail manager, and I had to reschedule all of those meetings.”
He went to the Optus store where he, like many others, was told his network woes were part of the nationwide outage.
Mr Spooner said he was frustrated because Optus was one of Australia’s largest internet service providers.
“I picked them because I thought it wouldn't have as many issues … but it’s kind of been one thing after the next with them, the data breach, the service issues, so I am looking at competitors,” he said.
“We‘re paying our bills for a service, and we’re not getting that service … it’s impacting businesses, impacting individuals … so if there’s nothing in the way of compensation, I will be looking to jump ship.”
Other Optus customers shared their frustration on social media, with one dubbing the outage an “absolute failure”.
“I’ve never seen a carrier go down nationwide before, but Optus are special apparently,” one user wrote on X.
Cyber hacks and staff sacked
The telco has faced a number of issues in recent years including most prominently a major cyber hack last year.
Almost 10 million Optus customers had their personal details compromised in 2022 when hackers taunted the public for weeks by releasing the details of 10,000 customers on the dark web.
A class action was launched by 100,000 customers in April alleging that Optus failed to protect customers personal information, destroy customers’ information, and ensure it could only be accessed for legitimate reasons.
In September, it was reported the telco would be laying off almost half of its staff at an Adelaide call centre.
At least 150 Optus call centre workers at the North Terrace office were reportedly made redundant, according to 7 News.