Optus network outage paralyzes Australian communications

Australians woke up to a technological standstill as Optus, the country’s second-largest telecom provider, faced a crippling nationwide outage. The shutdown of mobile phone and internet services left millions of customers and businesses disconnected, creating a cascade of disruptions.

Optus, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Singaporean telecommunications company Singtel, acknowledged the network fault on its website early Wednesday and assured customers that engineers were addressing the issue.

“We are currently working to identify the cause and apologize for any inconvenience,” a spokesperson told the Australian Associated Press (AAP).

Optus also posted on X, saying, “We’re aware of an issue impacting Optus mobile and NBN services and are working to restore services as quickly as possible.”

The telecom giant has reassured customers that emergency services can still be accessed, advising, “In case of an emergency, customers can still call 000.”

The outage’s breadth is substantial, leaving individuals without the ability to make or receive calls or use mobile internet.

Federal Communications Minister Michelle Rowland spoke to 2GB Radio, describing the problem as “deep and significant” and stated that while the cause remains uncertain, the priority is to restore connectivity and keep the public informed.

“I can’t speculate at this time about whether or not this is something to do with some sort of cyber hack,” she said, underscoring the importance of communication from Optus.

The repercussions have spilt over into the banking sector, with Commonwealth Bank warning of potential online banking issues. Customers faced challenges in reaching support and receiving SMS notifications, including Netcodes essential for banking security.

Melbourne’s transportation network was also caught in the turmoil, with the entire train system halting for over an hour during the early hours, as reported via X (formerly known as Twitter).

“Services are currently stopped due to a communications outage across the train network,” a spokesperson noted, suggesting commuters seek alternative routes. Services have since resumed but not without significant delays and adjustments.

The healthcare infrastructure has been hit as well, with Northern Health announcing operational shutdowns at multiple facilities, impacting critical communication lines. Their statement conveyed an apology for the inconvenience caused by the outage.

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