Latest Telstra Outage Shows We Need Telco Change

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There are two types of systems; those that have failed and those that will fail. And it seems that the country's largest telco, Telstra, has been "blessed" with both sorts. Over the weekend, Telstra suffered yet another embarrassing outage. The company's machine-to-machine network, that supports EFTPOS services, ATMs and prisoner monitoring devices went down.

There will be a great deal of navel gazing and consternation going on at Telstra HQ over the coming days. But the fact remains that Telstra has suffered a number of significant outages over the last couple of years and this points to a number of major issues.

All systems fail eventually. That can be as the result of human error, poor design or equipment failure and is exacerbated by a lack of redundancy in critical systems.

Telstra has laid blame for this outage on a piece of faulty equipment that has since been replaced.

An outage that renders EFTPOS machines, Cabcharge and ATMs useless is extremely inconvenient. That impacted pretty much anyone wanting to do some shopping or get their money out of a bank. And the impact of businesses was significant. But the country's dependence on Telstra for public safety must now be questioned.

In May this year, Telstra suffered an outage that took the 000 emergency services network for several hours in May.

And we now know that the system that tracks prisoners in home detention and day release from South Australian prisons was also off the air. At the time of writing, one offender was still not tracked down.

There's no doubt running a modern communications network is challenging. But there is one key measure that defines whether a network is meeting its customers' needs; uptime. The fastest network in the world is useless if it's not available.

Telstra is in the midst of a major structural change with the separation of the retail and infrastructure businesses, a technology change as it embraces emerging tech such as 5G and SDN, as well as supporting start-up hubs and innovation centres, and dealing with its place in the NBN world. This is a massive undertaking.

But a network that isn't available or can't be trusted to be available, much less one that is relied on for public safety, is critical national infrastructure. If the power system suffered the sorts of outages Telstra has there would be massive outcry.

Telstra is responsible for critical infrastructure. Their recent track record suggests it is struggling to deliver.


Comments

    Telstra have been consistently fumbling the ball in many areas over the past few years.
    It started happened not long after I was told in a Telstra store "We have the best network, if you think you can get a better deal elsewhere then take it". It was perfect timing for me, kind of like selling your bitcoin at USD$20,000.
    I had a look at their new options, now they're actually trying to win back customers, instead of arrogantly telling them to leave, these are the same crap Telstra deals they've always pushed. I don't see them making progress in the consumer space anytime soon.

    I'm on Telstra and I think I've only experienced one of these outages over the past couple of years. The service has always been extremely reliable for me.

    I get the feeling a lot of these problems are overblown personally. When I read about an outage, especially if it covers my area, I usually say "Huh? What outage?". I know this is just anecdotal based on just 1 person's experience, but to say the network "can't be trusted to be available" is blowing it way out of proportion and is, quite honestly, scaremongering.

      Except that if you actually read the article, you would see the outages have been to B2B and commercial systems like the 000 emergency number, EFTPOS, prisoner tracking, etc.. These need 100% uptime. Build the redundancy, build the high availability and build the BCP/DR processes to ensure that. A company the size of Telstra should be able to and if they can't, find a company that can.

      I know this is just anecdotal based on just 1 person's experience, but to say the network "can't be trusted to be available" is blowing it way out of proportion and is, quite honestly, scaremongering.

      Over the weekend, Telstra suffered yet another embarrassing outage. The company's machine-to-machine network, that supports EFTPOS services, ATMs and prisoner monitoring devices went down.

      Yeah. Totally just blown out of proportion and scaremongering.

      You wouldnt happen to have shares in Telstra would you?

        Nope, no shares. The problem is just being overblown. Were the outages bad? Of course they were. Should they have never happened? Of course they shouldn't have. I'm not making any excuses for the outages.

        I'm just saying statements like "can't be trusted to be available" are way over the top. These outages happened once and were resolved quickly, meanwhile my workmates on other networks often can't get a signal at all in the office building in the middle of the Sydney CBD while I get full reception, and that happens *every day*.

          So, in other words, your anecdotal evidence is the only one that matters while others that are negative about Telstra are null a void because you say so?

          I smell a contradiction here.

          You can like the service you are provided. Nothing wrong with that at all. You don't however get to dismiss others bad experiences with Telstra. One experience does not cancel out the other.

            I never dismissed it. I said there's no excuse for the outages, they shouldn't have happened. I'm just saying the wording in the article is a bit extreme.

      We are increasingly dependent on cellular comms. The number of people who don't have a landline is increasing and more and more people are opting to not have a landline installed (I haven't had one for five years and I know I'm not alone amongst my friends and peers). That makes it as important as fixed line services. And many services, like prisoner monitoring, depend on cellular comms. It's not "scaremongering" when 700 offenders could walk free.

        I realise this, I myself don't have a landline and just use my mobile phone. I'm just pointing out that usage of phrases like "can't be trusted to be available" based on a handful of outages over the past couple of years is rather extreme. I'm not making excuses for those outages, they definitely shouldn't have happened, but to say the network point blank can't be trusted? That's a little overboard, don't you think?

        Why are these critical mobile-based systems not running Dual-Network?
        There are GPRS alarm systems that offer this, surely prisoner monitoring warrants having a redundant path?

    Certain essential mobile technologies may need redundant backup dual-sims to operate effectively... like say Monitoring Devices.
    Between Friday morning and 12.30pm Saturday, more than 770 offenders were unmonitored.

    But at the end of the day, Telstra (and Optus) really need to look at their network systems cause every one of these outages has been a system faullt at one location/component. If this continues, well I think serious questions need to be asked if our mobile carriers are secure enough for our essential services.

      Yes, perhaps dual SIM redundancy would be good. What would be even better is network redundancy such as alternative routing, fallback networks, and load balancing which would provide better services for more people; push the redundancy on to the provider rather than externalising it to the consumer. I agree, until Telstra can prove they can provide 21st century solutions and 20th century reliability, the essential services which rely on Telstra should be looking for alternatives.

    There shouldn't be a single point of failure for critical services - what if this had affected triple zero, especially with the bushfire alerts?

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