Recommended Sponsor - Buy Original Artwork Directly from the Artist

Source: The Conversation (Au and NZ) – By Mark A Gregory, Associate Professor, School of Engineering, RMIT University

The telecommunications industry faces a major shakeup following the release of the post-incident report on last November’s 12-hour Optus outage. Telecommunications companies will have to share more information with customers during future outages, and set up a body to manage the Triple Zero emergency service.

The Optus outage affected more than 10 million mobile and broadband services. Thousands of people who tried to call Triple Zero were unable to get through.

Hospitals, schools, and businesses could not connect to mobile and fixed networks. Commuters were delayed on their way to work, and thousands of small businesses were unable to use EFTPOS.

The post-incident review, led by former deputy chair of the Australian Communications and Media Authority Richard Bean, has made 18 recommendations. They aim to make the industry more accountable and improve oversight of the Triple Zero service.

Government response

The government has agreed to all 18 of the review’s recommendations.

Communications minister Michelle Rowland said:

Australians need to have confidence in our telecommunications services, particularly when it comes to Triple Zero.

This review is the most comprehensive examination of the Triple Zero ecosystem in over a decade. It means we have a workable blueprint to implement changes that will help improve the resilience of telecommunications in this country.

The review involved a range of stakeholders. They included communications providers as well as federal, state and territory government entities, regulators, and industry and consumer representative bodies.

Major recommendations

Some of the report’s recommendations are about structural issues in the telecommunications ecosystem. Others address the role of government in managing and responding to national service outages. A third group tackle how carriers communicate with customers and deal with post-incident complaints and compensation.

Key recommendations include:

  • new rules mandating how, what and when telecommunications carriers communicate with their customers during and after an outage

  • a comprehensive testing regime across telecommunications networks and devices to ensure callers can reach Triple Zero

  • a Triple Zero custodian which will provide end-to-end oversight of the Triple Zero service and ensure the service is working

  • a review of all legislation and regulation relating to the delivery of Triple Zero

  • a review of the government’s contract with Telstra to operate the Triple Zero emergency service system

  • an industry agreement on working together to manage and resolve outages.

What will change

The government has set a timeframe of 12–18 months to implement the report’s recommendations.

The 18 recommendations will be implemented by the government and various agencies, as well as the telecommunications industry. They will need to act quickly.

The establishment of the Triple Zero custodian framework will initially be led by the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman.

The carriers will implement the systems and practices necessary for carriers to share real-time information about outages with emergency services and authorities.

Carriers will collectively be required to make an agreement to work together to manage and resolve outages.

Government will need to develop new guidelines for communication and collaboration. These will ensure ministers, state and territory authorities and government agencies can work together during telecommunications outages.

The government will review the legislation and regulations relating to the Triple Zero emergency service and, if necessary, introduce new legislation.

What does this mean for customers?

The Bean review and the government’s acceptance of its 18 recommendations should make our telecommunications system more robust. Telecommunications companies will work together to minimise the effect of future outages, particularly if they impact Triple Zero.

One key improvement will be how telecommunications companies respond to customer concerns about outages. There will also be changes to how customers can make complaints and seek compensation. Small business will be looking for a compensation process that is less onerous than the current one.

A small step

The Optus outage and the Bean review show up weaknesses in our telecommunications system. The industry still has some way to go before Australians can be confident in using telecommunications safely, securely and reliably.

The industry has largely been left to its own stewardship since it was deregulated in the late 1990s. Some of the review’s recommendations are small steps towards minimum performance standards.

The next step should be a broader review to look at how minimum performance standards can be developed and implemented.

The Conversation

Mark A Gregory does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

ref. ‘A major shakeup’: the Optus outage has been investigated. What’s going to change now? –