More than 10 million Australians have been cut off from internet and phone services after a nationwide outage hit Optus, the country’s second-biggest network operator.
The outage began just after 4am on Wednesday (17:00 GMT on Tuesday), crippling payment systems and online operations and disrupting train services during the morning rush hour in cities including Melbourne.
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The Australian government said mobile phones, landlines and broadband internet had all been affected.
Optus CEO Kelly Bayer Rosmarin ruled out a cyber-attack but in an interview on ABC Radio did not give a reason for the hours-long outage.
“It is highly unlikely [that the problem started within software in Optus networks], our systems are actually very stable … This is a very, very rare occurrence,” she said.
“We are working really hard to get it up and running as soon as we possibly can.”
As a result of the outage, dozens of hospitals were unable to receive phone calls and it was not possible to make emergency calls from landlines on the Optus network. The poisons hotline in the state of New South Wales said it had also been affected.
About six hours after the disruption began, Optus said some services had started to be restored but it would take some time before the network was fully up and running.
Australia’s Communication Workers Union said the outage was an “absolute disgrace”, suggesting it was linked to recent job losses at the company, which is a unit of Singapore Telecommunications.
Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology researcher Mark Gregory said the incident showed there were fundamental problems in Australia’s communications networks.
“Single point of failure related outages have occurred too often over the past decades and it is time that the government steps in to force the telecommunications industry to build redundancy into the networks and systems,” he told the AFP news agency.
The outage comes just more than a year after more than 9 million Optus customers had their personal data stolen during a cyber attack.