Photograph: Lucas Koch/AAP
Optus chief executive Kelly Byrne Rosemarin told a Senate hearing she would now carry both a Telstra and Vodafone SIM in case Optus was struck down last week.
Bayer Rosmarin said that previously she carried a spare Vodafone SIM in case of a fault, but now she also carries a spare Telstra SIM.
“Now I have all three. I had Vodafone before and now I also have Telstra,” he said on Friday.
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Bayer Rosmarin and the company’s networks chief Lambo Kanagaratnam faced two hours of questioning on Friday before a Senate committee chaired by Greens communications spokeswoman Sarah Hanson-Young. Questions explored the outage as well as the company’s communications with customers and what will be done to prevent it from happening again.
Bayer Rosmarin said it had not spoken to Communications Minister Michel Rolland until a four-hour communications disruption last week.
“When I woke up in the morning I saw that the phone was not working. And so I decided to go to the office immediately.
She said she reached office at 7.35 am and held a crisis meeting from 7.45 am to 8.30 am. He said that after this he talked to the minister.
Bayer Rosmarin said its team was already in contact with the minister’s office, and assured that Roland Optus was working to restore the network as soon as possible.
Optus initially claimed on Monday that the outage was caused by a change in routing information supplied from the international peering network following a routine software upgrade. The company did not reveal until late Wednesday that the peer network in question was Optus’ parent company Singtel Internet Exchange (STiX).
However, Singtel distanced itself from responsibility, saying that Optus had been informed about the upgrade in advance and that it had not caused the disruption. Kangaratnam said Friday that ultimately it was an issue with Optus’s Cisco routers not being configured correctly.
“The outage was a result of our defenses not working as they should have for changes in our routing information and that’s something we’ve obviously addressed,” he told the Senate committee. “And we’ve worked around the clock to make sure that we’ve addressed all of the issues that we’ve encountered.”
During the outage approximately 90 of the company’s routers went offline due to failsafe mechanisms after receiving an overload in routing information, causing the network to shut down. About 150 engineers had to visit 14 sites across the country to reactivate them.
Bayer Rosmarin said the company had to perform a “hard reboot of the network” at around 10.30am on Wednesday. – A “brute force reanimation of the network”. Although the crisis ended for customers at 4 p.m., it took days for the team to figure out what was causing it.
While the company initially wondered whether it was the result of another cyberattack, Bayer Rosmarin said there were “strange coincidences” between last week’s incident and last year’s cyberattack, the most notable being that both Singtel boards Was in Australia for. That idea was quickly shot down, he said.
The company conducted an outage exercise in October, but did not specify the cause of the entire network shutdown. Kangaratnam said Optus has now put security in place to prevent such an incident from happening in the future.
Bayer Rosmarin also revealed that 228 Optus customers who attempted to call 000 during the outage were unable to have their calls connected. He said the company has since conducted welfare checks on those customers and “thankfully everyone is OK”.
He welcomed the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) investigation into why customers were unable to camp on another network to make calls, as existing standards allow.
So far, 8,500 customers and small businesses have contacted Optus seeking compensation for losses worth $430,000. The company has already applied for $36,000 as compensation.
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Bayer Rosmarin said Optus was keen to have “comprehensive” discussions about the resulting damage as a result of the outage, noting that it would have a wide-ranging impact on the NBN and other areas going forward.
“We realized that this is an issue that is much wider and the government should look into it. We’d love to be a part of that conversation. But there is no precedent for telecommunications companies or other essential providers to cover resulting losses,” she said.
“We are very conscious that this will have far-reaching implications, not just for Optus, not just for all telecommunications companies including the NBN, but also for other essential services, utilities, government services, and a more broader conversation on is required.”
He also said that measures allowing Optus customers to roam on rival networks were not in place, and that there would be some discussion with other industry players and investment in capacity before this happened in the future.
The CEO also faced criticism from senators over the company’s communications with customers during the outage. She acknowledged that the company had provided only select media interviews, and said she would consider holding press conferences in the future, but said it was “unusual for a CEO” to appear to the public during the outage.
Bayer Rosmarin did not respond directly to reports that she might resign as early as next week, instead saying she was focused on responding to the outage.