More than 10 million Australians were left without a cell phone network or internet this Wednesday (8) due to a huge outage in service from one of the country’s main telecommunications companies.
The failure at the Optus company also affected electronic payment systems, interrupted telephone lines used by ambulances and police and temporarily stopped trains in the city of Melbourne during rush hour.
Optus, a subsidiary of Singapore’s Singtel, said that “some” services were restored on Wednesday afternoon (local time), but it does not yet know the cause of the failure.
The telecommunications company, the second largest in the country with more than 10 million customers, identified the blackout at around 4:05 am (Sydney time, 2 pm on Tuesday Brasília time).
“Until we have carried out a thorough and exhaustive analysis of the causes, we will not be able to provide further information,” Optus CEO Kelly Bayer Rosmarin told the Australian network ABC, stating that a blackout like the one that occurred is “very unusual”.
According to the executive, “there is no evidence” that the failure was caused by a hacker attack on the company. About a year ago, the telecommunications giant suffered a cyber attack that resulted in the theft of personal data from more than nine million customers.
Several organizations and companies have confirmed that they have regained internet connection, including the Federal Department of Education, Melbourne’s Royal Hospital and Commonwalth Bank.
Union speaks of “absolute shame”
Dozens of hospitals could not receive calls. Additionally, Optus customers’ landlines were also unable to make emergency calls.
In the midst of rush hour, train service in Melbourne was hampered by “a communications cut”. Airline Virgin Australia and health insurer Bupa have also reported problems.
Communications Minister Michelle Rowland said the service disruption “has wide-ranging ramifications for mobile, fixed and broadband services for Optus customers”.
Australia’s Communications Workers Union called the failure an “absolute disgrace” and linked it to recent job cuts at the company.
Ramsay Health Care said phones at its 73 private hospitals and surgical units were down.
A carer told ABC radio in Melbourne that he was unable to call an ambulance for one of his patients and had to “run into the street and ask for the cell phone of someone who was walking their dog”.