Almost 2,700 emergency calls during last year’s Optus outage failed to connect to a Triple Zero operator, 11 times more than the embattled telco first disclosed to the media regulator and the Senate.
The company made the admission late on Tuesday, with at least 2,697 customers unable to reach Triple Zero operators during the nationwide outage that lasted for more than 12 hours on November 8.
In the weeks after the outage, former Optus chief executive Kelly Bayer Rosmarin told a Senate inquiry that Optus had identified just 229 mobile calls to emergency services couldn’t connect.
The figure was also supplied to the Australian Communications and Media Authority, which is conducting a review into reports that customers were unable to make Triple Zero calls.
Under the Emergency Service Call Determination, telcos are required to ensure that emergency calls are successfully carried to the Triple Zero Emergency Service Centre operated by Telstra.
But following a review of calls during the outage, Optus said a “additional 2,468 customers that made Triple Zero calls from our network did not reach the Emergency Service Centre”.
Unlike the original 229 calls, for which Optus upheld an emergency protocol requiring telcos to run welfare checks, no welfare checks were undertaken for the additional calls, the company also confirmed.
“There is nothing more important to us than the safety and security of our customers, but regrettably on 8 November we did not meet the standards our customers and the community expects from us,” interim Optus CEO Michael Venter said in a statement.
“I offer my deepest apologies to all those customers who were unable to access Triple Zero services during the outage and did not receive a follow-up check from us.
“We are writing to each customer individually to apologise for this and provide the opportunity to discuss their specific circumstances and whether there is anything we can do to assist them further.”
Optus already provided the updated information to the ACMA for its investigation and plans to do the same for the Senate inquiry.
The company will also appoint a third-party to review the “process supporting welfare check obligations” and has committed to implement any recommendations to arise from that review.
In a statement, Communications minister Michelle Rowland described the development as “deeply concerning given the critical importance of the Triple Zero service”.
“Optus has advised it will commence a process to contact impacted customers and the Government has conveyed its expectation this occur expeditiously,” Ms Rowland said.
Ms Rowland has faced criticism from the Opposition in recent days for telling the public that mobile calls to Triple Zero were working when there was evidence to suggest that some were not connecting.
Documents obtained by the ABC reveal the minister was aware of the evidence before she fronted the media on the day of the outage, which shadow communications minister David Coleman said is “very concerning”.
“Official notes from the briefing record the Minister as saying that she doesn’t want to cause panic and describe her position as “want to be able to say that mobiles will still connect”. But the minister’s responsibility is to tell Australians the truth,” Mr Coleman said.
“Triple Zero calls can be literally a matter of life and death, and it’s crucial that people are made aware of any problems with the system. The minister needs to explain why she withheld this critical information from Australians.”
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