Earlier this year on Friday 4 May, Telstra experienced a service disruption that affected the ability for some people to call Triple Zero. The disruption was due to the combined impact of three separate network issues – a hardware fault, fire damage to a main inter-capital fibre cable, and a software fault.
We take our responsibilities as the service provider for Triple Zero (000) extremely seriously. One failed call to Triple Zero is one too many and we apologise again for what occurred.
Following the Triple Zero disruption, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) and the Department of Communications and the Arts (DoCA) commenced investigations into what occurred and today both have released their findings.
The ACMA found Telstra had contravened section 22 of the Telecommunications (Emergency Call Service) Determination 2009 and the Telecommunications (Consumer Protection and Service Standards) Act 1999 by failing to ensure that all emergency calls were carried to our 000 emergency services answering point.
The DoCA has made 11 recommendations on improvements to infrastructure, processes and communications that Telstra, industry and Government could make to reduce the risk of similar disruptions in the future. Telstra has already established a program of work directed to the recommendations of the DoCA, and a number of these have already been completed.
The events of 4 May 2018 were complex and unprecedented, and Telstra responded by conducting its own extensive investigation into what occurred in order to identify further process and network improvements. We also worked cooperatively with the ACMA and the Federal Government on their own investigations.
We have also entered into an enforceable undertaking with the ACMA to make and maintain a number of improvements including to:
our monitoring and fault detection processes and systems
our network redundancy and diversity for emergency calls
our infrastructure and software
Importantly we are also working with Emergency Services Organisations and other network operators to develop a crisis communications plan and protocols in the unlikely event a similar incident occurs in the future.
Telstra has a long and proud history in providing critical telecommunications services to Australians and has been operating the Triple Zero answer service for more than 50 years. As DoCA has recognised in its report, Telstra’s historical performance in delivering the service has been high.
As the Executive Director of Regulatory Affairs, Jane leads Telstra’s engagement with regulators and key policy makers on a broad range of issues affecting the company and our customers. She also advises internally on Telstra’s regulatory compliance.
Are you the go-to geek at home? We’ve got you covered
General Manager Platinum Services – Innovation and Strategy -
Are you the go-to family member that everyone targets with their IT problems? Do the people you live with ask you for help with their phone, computer or internet? It’s nice that they think you’ll have all the answers. But what happens when you don’t know the solution, or don’t have the time or patience to find it?
Telsyte has recently found that the average Australian household had 17.1 internet connected devices in 2018, up from 13.7 in 2017, predicting that this number will grow to 37 by 2022.* And with the introduction of voice assistants and other IoT devices continuing to boost these devices in Australian homes, it’s only natural that the tech questions will be coming faster and more frequently.
Our insights here at Telstra support this, showing that online searches for troubleshooting tech issues in the home is on the rise. More and more Australians are heading online to find answers, with searches such as device set up, software upgrades and connectivity issues topping the list.**
No one can be expected to have all the answers to help with the set up and optimisations of the myriad of PCs, phones, gadgets, software and apps available today. It is a huge ask to keep up to date with how everything works together and it’s difficult to know where you can turn to, what sites you can trust and which tools are safe.
So, to help with this, we have developed a range of trusted resources across:
All these resources are a great way to improve knowledge, so you’re fully equipped. Alternatively, you can use them to help give family and friends a little nudge in the right direction so they can help themselves!
CrowdSupport® is our online community to connect our customers on a platform where they can ask questions, or search for answers in a managed tech forum. It’s the place to go for that tricky problem you can’t seem to solve – you’ll often find complex answers here, along with reassurance that you’re not alone in experiencing a particular issue.
For help with mobile services, there is a brilliant set of tips and how to guides for our smart phones, mobiles and tablets. Our range of interactive guides provide easy to follow steps to learn how to set up email, organise contacts, access the internet, to get help with messaging and apps, and much more.
For advice on staying safe online and protecting your privacy, our Cyber Safety page provides top tips for securing your device, helping you protect your personal information, keeping your kids safe with device use along with a set of great resources and tools.
On top of these, our Platinum team have just launched a new series of articles to help with the most common tech issues our customers ask for help with. The articles give tips and advice when setting up new tech, using new features as well as solving and staying out of a tech crisis.
Where to turn to when all else fails, or it’s just too hard
If you simply can’t find the answer, our Platinum team are always here to help. We offer expert support and advice with our ongoing paid subscription services to provide ongoing support online, over the phone or instore. We also have a range of affordable once off services for help when your own go-to geek is not available, or you just need to get something set up or fixed right now!
Our team can provide expert technical advice for most Australian devices. This includes devices purchased from us or from other retailers – it doesn’t matter if your phone or internet service is with Telstra, if you’re a Telstra Platinum customer we can help.
* Telsyte Australian IoT@Home Market Study 2018 ** Telstra Brandwatch Report Month End March 2018
General Manager Platinum Services – Innovation and Strategy -
Craig has 19 years’ experience in the telecommunications industry leading teams developing new products, network improvements and process improvement programs across fixed, broadband and mobile portfolios. He currently leads our Platinum Service team, who are focused on driving improvements in our customer help and technical support beyond the typical boundaries into applications and IOT services. In his spare time Craig can be found down at North Burleigh Surf Club (the best beach and surf club in Australia) with his wife and champion nipper daughters who he trains, but prefers to no longer race, as they now leave him in their wash.
My story: connecting Cambodia to the world after the Khmer Rouge regime
In his 25 years at Telstra, our international head of network evolution, Andrew Hankins, has never backed down from a challenge. That includes relocating to Cambodia – as a graduate engineer – to help facilitate the nation’s first international calls after the fall of the Pol Pot regime.
I remember my first network job; perhaps more profoundly than most. It’s probably because it led me all the way from my home in Sydney to Phnom Penh less than 10 years after the reign of the Khmer Rouge.
The country was in a state of flux.
Before my time in Cambodia, I began my career as a junior graduate engineer at the Overseas Telecommunications Commission (OTC) in Sydney. I was 21 years old and had never left the country. At the time OTC (now Telstra) was charged with responsibility for all international connectivity into and out of Australia.
I worked in the satellite services team, testing and installing antennas and building small earth satellite stations. My first posting was at the Oxford Falls Cable Station in Sydney.
My time abroad with OTC started in an unlikely place – an AIDAB (now AusAID) aid project in Laos as part of an Australian government program in the late 80s. It opened my eyes to a different world; one where I was empowered to act and use my skills to make a real difference in places where it was needed.
Not long after this experience, OTC offered me the opportunity to join a four-month project to build a Satellite Earth Station in Cambodia. It was 1991 and the Vietnamese military had just withdrawn after a 10-year occupation. The newly-formed State of Cambodia faced the difficult task of maintaining stability amidst the potential guerrilla warfare.
The satellite station construction was the first project under a Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) agreement with the Cambodian Ministry of Telecommunications. We were tasked with building and jointly operating the country’s international telecommunications infrastructure which would, after 10 years, be returned to the government. At that time, the only international links were a handful of circuits to Hanoi and Moscow and it was nearly impossible to make a simple phone call out of the country.
Cambodia looked very different 28 years ago. The only foreigners in Phnom Penh were from the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc countries. Children playing in the streets would often assume we were Russian. Each morning, I would ride my bicycle to work at the satellite station and local students would ride beside me and ask questions to practice their English.
Although it was illegal to learn English in Cambodia at the time, they would innocently ask questions like, “what is your function [job]?” or “do you still have a family?” It was grimly telling. In the absence of many western staples, simple items like cornflakes became a small reminder of home. The post-war conditions saw Cambodia largely disconnected from the rest of the world.
During the testing and commissioning phase of the satellite station installation, we would work under the moonlight from 10PM until dawn. This was the testing window allocated by Intelsat (a satellite services provider). During these hours, the streets were always eerily empty. There was a nationwide curfew in place and Cambodians were required to stay in their houses at night.
To get to the cable station we would pass through the maze of roadblocks scattered across the city. What would normally be a straightforward set-up was instead fraught with challenges. One of the largest was interfacing our equipment with the country’s outdated 1920’s French operator panel. Within weeks of establishing better service, international call traffic grew about 1000 per cent.
After travelling home to Australia for 12 months, I was quick to return to Cambodia – this time as Telstra’s Operations Manager. At just 23 years of age, I became responsible for a large part of the country’s telecommunications network.
We began training around 20 local Ministry staff to operate the facilities, most of whom had studied telecommunications or electronics in places like East Germany, Hungary or Russia. Local switchboard operators received lessons from a lively Australian woman, who had flown over to impart knowledge on long distance call etiquette and fair practice.
During this time, we worked to install the country’s first automated international exchange to replace the old French model. This exchange provided automated calls and billing. Sadly, the original exchange had been partially destroyed in a sweeping attack at the height of the Khmer Rouge regime. Incredibly, we later heard stories of how the local workers had returned to the scene and rewired the exchange from memory. It was an incredible demonstration of their resilience.
In March 1992, a United Nations peacekeeping operation arrived in Cambodia bringing with them around 22,000 military and civilian personnel. It was a de-escalation process that would provide the Kingdom’s first national elections.
To enable the elections, a tender was opened for the installation of a telecom system across the country. It was a contract that Telstra won. At the height of this project, we had 50 Telstra staff in Cambodia building out a telephone network – linking all the provincial cities back to Phnom Penh. Not long after the election, Telstra also set up Cambodia’s first mobile phone number program based on our approach in Australia.
Rapidly, Cambodia was becoming a much larger international gateway. The exchange buildings were quickly upgraded to near-international standards with purpose-built air-conditioning and generators. We built larger antennas – one pointing to the Pacific Ocean and the other to the Indian Ocean thereby establishing direct satellite links to Australia, Thailand, the United States and Japan. Business was booming and traffic was growing at about 1000 per cent per year.
In 1994 I returned to Australia once again – this time for four years, and with support from Telstra I gained an MBA. But, Cambodia continued to be a magnet. In 1999, I went back to Cambodia as Country Manager and this time ran three businesses: international telecommunications, internet services (BigPond Cambodia) and a payphone business.
After an incredible 10 years, it was time to transfer the infrastructure to the Ministry thereby concluding our BOT agreement. At an official ceremony, in the presence of Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, we handed over the physical keys to the foundational infrastructure. It’s a moment that’s etched in my memory. Each of us were awarded medals of service for our work to facilitate some of the country’s first international commercial calls.
The years that followed were markedly different. I arrived in San Francisco for a six month posting that became six years. Here, we would set-up some of Telstra’s first dedicated network in the United States. I suppose I had carved myself a name for taking on new challenges. In 2006, I would come full circle and return to Asia, settling in Hong Kong. It’s where I still reside today.
Establishing some of Cambodia’s first international links is among my most rewarding career achievements. From a 21 year old graduate to my role today as Telstra’s Head of Network Evolution, it’s the time in-between that stands out the most.
I always make a point of telling people starting out in their career to grab the opportunities that come your way – don’t hesitate. Grab them whenever they arise, no matter how unexpected.
After all, my story is living proof that you never know where the road will take you.
Andrew Hankins was appointed the Head of Network Evolution for Telstra Enterprise in September 2016. He is responsible for the architecture and planning of Telstra’s core international network, including the submarine cable, transmission and IP networks.
Andrew has over 25 years of experience in international telecommunications, during which he held senior positions in engineering, network planning, operations, and the international carrier business. Andrew has extensive industry experience in transmission, submarine cable, international telephony, satellite and internet technologies and platforms.
Prior to joining Telstra, Andrew worked at Reach for 10 years where his last held position was Director of Engineering. He previously held senior management positions with the company in the engineering and operations fields.
Andrew has a Master of Business Administration from the University of Technology, Sydney, and an honour degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Queensland.
Keeping Telstra customers better informed about network outages
We have made a number of improvements to our Service Status Page to help our customers when you’re searching online for information about network outages.
When you operate large and complex networks like ours, from time to time there will be service interruptions or outages as they’re sometimes known. These network outages are generally caused by a loss of power in parts of our network, builders or construction companies cutting one of our cables, equipment failure and extreme weather such as storms, cyclones and floods.
When something does go wrong, our teams do everything they can to restore our customers’ services as quickly as possible. Indeed, the majority of network issues are fixed in under four hours and many much quicker than this.
That said, we know that if your service is impacted even briefly, you want to know what is happening and when you’ll be reconnected.
Until recently, you have been able to search online for outages on Telstra’s Service Status Page and receive general information by postcode. Our customers told us that this information was sometimes confusing - they wanted more specific information relevant to their service and clearer guidance on what to do next.
One of the biggest improvements we have made is the way our customers can search. Instead querying using a postcode, you can perform a personalised search using your home address to check for outages affecting your home telephone and internet services. This delivers results tailored to your service address. You can know with certainty if there is an outage affecting your address and if so, the cause of the outage and when you’ll be reconnected.
If your service is not impacted by an outage in the area, we guide you through smart troubleshooting steps at telstra.com/fix which test, diagnose and resolve common issues.
For customers searching for information about mobile and network outages, we have added maps that show specific geographical areas that may be impacting a customer’s mobile service. This is far more accurate and helpful for customers, especially if a mobile outage is confined to a few streets and not an entire suburb.
All of these new features and improvements were based on feedback from our customers, who want effortless digital experiences, transparent information and fast resolution. Keep an eye out too for new features we will be adding in the coming months.
As an Area General Manager in the Northern Territory, there is no such thing as a typical day and no typical customer story either.
I remember going out to meet a teacher who was having trouble getting an internet connection having just moved to Hermannsburg in the Territory.
Our systems were showing her ‘residential address’ as non-existent as she was housed in a mobile home, but with the help from a number of teams across the business including the Alice Springs store we managed to get her connected to an ADSL2 service.
That is just one of the very unique customer issues we see here in the Northern Territory – Australia’s least densely populated state, with 246,300 residents spread over 1,349,000sq km, and around 45 per cent of the population living outside the urban centre.
With such a great area to cover, the digital divide is substantial in the Territory and we’re working closely with local stakeholders to help overcome the challenges faced by our customers.
Telstra’s co-investment in the federal Mobile Black Spot Program and the $30 million joint infrastructure agreement with the NT Government will help deliver state-of-the-art mobile services to a further 18 new sites in the Territory over the next three years.
This work is critical to supporting local businesses, tourism, and the delivery of essential health and education services.
But it is not just about connecting customers; my team and I are focused on educating the community about technology and the opportunities it can provide them.
Telstra is a diverse organisation hiring people with a range of skills, backgrounds and experiences. Learn more about a career at Telstra and the diversity which we champion.