Sunday, 22 May 2016 21:22

Telstra outages – modem firmware problems?

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iTWire has received a tip from an anonymous source over the weekend that claims that Telstra's horror run of outages in 2016 stems from bad firmware in Telstra supplied modems.

You can read the inital report from Friday here.

You can read the Saturday and Sunday update here.

The Sydney Morning Herald has also reported the issue. "Telstra tried to do a firmware upgrade on their Gateway modems, and it didn't go to plan resulting in a constant loop of resetting," one reader from Busselton in Western Australia told Fairfax Media on Sunday.

This would appear to corroborate the following email.

The issue seems to be that on around Thursday Telstra pushed apparently bad firmware (possibly untested or the issue was not found during testing, or it was not tested enough before being pushed).

This is unlike most Telstra problems, and I think it has the potential to cost Telstra millions, and I will explain why.

The modems that have the bad firmware are crashing after booting, shortly after connecting. Most people are referring to this as a 'drop out' but it is caused by bad firmware completely crashing the kernel in the Telstra supplied and managed modems.

Telstra is advising people not to power down their modems because there is an off chance it may not crash for long enough that it will contact the remote update server and download the fix, but I wouldn't count on it for most customers.

And the other problem is that when you call their support line and wait for three hours on hold, they have been telling people to power down and restart the modems, which is only exacerbating the problem of the modem not being up for long enough to successfully contact the update server before crashing again.

The direct costs are going to be compensation the likes of which Telstra has not seen before covering virtually every product they offer. The indirect costs are going to be increased phone support to try and bring down the three hour wait times. There is going to be thousands of people that are going to have to most likely send their modems back to Telstra because, for whatever reason, it is not able to stay up long enough to get the fix before it crashes again. Then you are going to have all those people who want to leave Telstra possibly having contracts completely waived, at a loss of thousands of dollars per contract times how many customers demand out.

This is the fourth major mass nationwide Telstra outage, and you are probably going to see the share price adjustment accordingly.

We will attempt to get a response from Telstra today and publish it here.

The Telstra brand is rapidly turning to poison over these outages. The long-term brand damage could easily cost them millions let alone everything else.

Lastly, they have scheduled planned maintenance in the coming days and weeks for virtually every product they offer which people are going to think is yet another outage or a continuance of the problems when they are Telstra deliberately taking down services to try and fix them.

These are the perils of allowing your ISP to remotely manage your modem.

If Telstra cannot even keep the lights on when there is a blue sky outside and perfect weather, how are they going to do it when there is a natural disaster or another emergency. Makes you wonder at this point because people are paying a very decent premium price for what they think is a premium service when in reality most of the support is outsourced, and the modems are garbage too.

We are awaiting a response from Telstra and will publish it as soon as it is received.

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Ray Shaw

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Ray Shaw ray@im.com.au  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!

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