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Telstra outage brought down banks, hospitals, airline

The seventh Telstra outage this year brought down businesses across Victoria, including banks, hospitals, department stores, and Jetstar.
Written by Corinne Reichert, Contributor

The National Australia Bank (NAB) and Melbourne's public transport system myki were two of the many businesses affected by Telstra's outage on Thursday, with online services brought down for more than six hours on the last day of FY16.

"NAB has experienced difficulties with internet banking, telephone banking, and the contact centre as a result of the Telstra outage," a NAB spokesperson said on Thursday night.

"NAB is working with Telstra to restore services as soon as possible. We apologise for any inconvenience caused to customers."

According to The Sydney Morning Herald, department store Myer, along with Medibank, the Royal Melbourne Hospital, Mitcham Private Hospital, Labor's Melbourne campaign headquarters, Monash University, Jetstar, Officeworks, The Good Guys, Simply Energy, and ME Bank, also had online services brought down as a result of the outage.

Telstra confirmed reports at 5pm on Thursday that it was experiencing an outage in Victoria across several business and enterprise customers after reports emerged from around 2pm that customers were unable to top up their myki cards.

At almost 10pm AEST on Thursday, Telstra issued a statement saying services had been restored.

"The network issue was restored around 8.30pm and we are working with customers to confirm that their services are up and running," a Telstra spokesperson said.

"We apologise to all affected customers and their customers for the impact that this has caused."

ME Bank reported getting internet and mobile banking services back as of 5.49pm , while Simply Energy was still reporting its customer service phone lines as being unavailable as of 6.11pm and Mitcham Private Hospital apologised to its customers at 7.12pm.

Myer reported being able to process card payments in stores as of 8.14pm, and Medibank said its website was "back up and running" at 7.26pm.

The outage came just one day after Telstra CEO Andrew Penn had announced that the telecommunications giant will be investing an additional AU$250 million in its network over the next six to 12 months in the wake of a series of outages this year.

"Over the past few months, we have experienced some network interruptions that have impacted you, our customers," Penn wrote on the Telstra Exchange blog on Wednesday morning.

"I am writing this note today to update you on what we are continuing to do to address these issues. In May, we announced the results of a review into our mobile network. We are very advanced in implementing the recommendations from that review. We have also recently completed an end-to-end review of our core network and IT systems, pinpointing sources of potential risk.

"As a result of this work, we will be investing AU$250 million from our existing capital program, within our 15 percent capex to sales ratio, over the next six to 12 months to provide a higher degree of network resilience and improved network performance."

The investment will be made in three major areas: The AU$50 million to be spent on improving mobile network resiliency by creating better real-time monitoring and speeding up recovery time; AU$100 million on increasing the core fixed-line network's reliability and resiliency; and AU$100 million on upping its ADSL broadband capacity to cope with demand.

According to Penn, the spending is part of the ordinary program of allocating capital that the telco undergoes at the beginning of each financial year; the increased spending simply demonstrates that it is prioritising network resiliency to a higher degree in order to continue being a leading player in all network technologies.

Telstra already spends AU$4 billion a year across all of its networks.

Telstra had a rough start to 2016, with customers subjected to three major outages over a period of six weeks: The first on February 22, which affected prepaid and post-paid mobile services and was caused by "embarrassing human error"; the second on March 17, which involved an hours-long national mobile data and voice outage; and the third on March 22, which was a smaller voice outage.

Telstra then experienced an NBN and ADSL outage in May that resulted in the telco having to send free modems to customers still affected several days later, a mobile data services outage later that week, and a broadband service outage in June.

The first three outages led Telstra to commit to spending the aforementioned AU$50 million on improving the monitoring and recovery times of its network.

Of this AU$50 million, AU$25 million is being spent on installing monitoring equipment and tools for improved real-time traffic monitoring, with the other half going towards improving network recovery time.

According to chief operating officer Kate McKenzie, Telstra's mobile network now carries 50 percent more data than it did a year ago, meaning it is under far greater strain. As a result of a network review, Telstra implemented various measures to deal with this and prevent future issues.

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