November 7, 2023
An outage at No.2 Australian telco Optus left nearly half the population without internet or phone on Wednesday, throwing payment, transport and health systems into chaos and raising questions about the fragility of the country’s core infrastructure. The outage was first reported about 4 a.m. local time (1700 GMT on Tuesday) and it was not until almost 5.30 p.m. that Optus said services had been restored.
Some 10 million Australians, 40% of the population, are Optus customers and could not use smartphones, broadband internet or landlines for much of the day. Hospitals couldn’t take phone calls, small businesses were unable to process electronic payments and train networks and ride share services were down simultaneously in some cities. The incident sparked criticism about the robustness of Australia’s telecommunications network and in particular about Optus, which is owned by Singapore Telecommunications