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Tuesday, 17 May 2016 07:14

Business confidence in Telstra eroding through repeated outages Featured


The year 2016 has brutally claimed many scalps. It's also the year Telstra's credibility as a stable network provider powering the largest Australian network died.

Sadly, 2016 has brought with it the departure of Alan Rickman, David Bowie, Ronnie Corbett, Prince and more.

2016 is also the year where Telstra has suffered outage after outage. Actually, Telstra's customers are the ones suffering, and often without explanation.

On Tuesday 9th February Telstra's 2G, 3G, 4G voice and data networks experienced a major outage affecting millions of individuals.

Telstra apologised, explaining the problem was a human error, with services connected to a faulty node instead of migrated away from it.

A free "day of data" was then granted to Telstra mobile users, and to Telstra's credit, the day went without incident, even with some network users boasting about how many gigabytes of data they had downloaded without incurring a bill.

Yet, in March it happened again.

Telstra strenuously asserted the two incidents were unrelated and occurred for different causes. A second free day of data was bestowed.

In actuality, this was the fourth mobile network outage within two months, a scenario which rival carriers were keen to point out.

While these two specific incidents received notable publicity, they were not the end of it. Telstra has suffered a spate of outages affecting businesses and consumers alike.

Just last Thursday night Telstra's primary DNS servers failed rendering many businesses and consumers without connectivity. The cabling itself was fine, but the critical name resolution that mail and web servers depend on was out.

No sooner was this resolved than many east cost NBN services suffered an outage.

At this very time of writing Telstra's service status page reports all services are functioning normally, but yet the damage to confidence - particularly business confidence - has been done.

Enterprises are rightfully wary of Telstra's uptime capability right now, with goodwill and confidence eroded.

While Telstra was keen to publicly explain the human error in the February mobile outage, the telco has not been forthcoming with any explanation or root cause analysis for the numerous following incidents.

Indeed, while such incidents were occurring only scant information was provided on the service status page, and the Telstra Twitter and Facebook pages were conspicuously quiet on the matters.

By day, I am the Chief Information Officer for public companies, with branch networks spanning Australia and, in one role, internationally to New Zealand and The Philippines.

I have personally written and published RFPs for telcos to supply data, voice, mobile and hosting services worth multi-millions of dollars.

Telstra has invariably had an edge because of its broad national reach. I've argued with CFOs that just because they can get good Vodafone coverage on a cheap plan in Melbourne doesn't help our workers in Muswellbrook, NSW or Moranbah, Qld.

Another reason Telstra has had an edge is because it can deliver flexibility for organisations that are growing and, sometimes, contracting, allowing for sites to open, move or, if need be, close. This became a sticking point for me at times in negotiations with certain third-party resellers of Telstra (and other) telecommunications services because they maintain they are themselves contracted to Telstra and cannot cancel a service at a specific location, despite whether we are growing in other areas.

Ironically, when I suggested to that reseller I would get a quicker fault resolution by dealing with Telstra directly than by logging an issue with them, and they in turn logging it with Telstra, they replied as they are a much larger Telstra customer overall than my business they were confident of achieving a faster response. Yet, they are evidently not so great a customer that I cannot negotiate greater agility on site connectivity myself.

Nevertheless, the point is Telstra has certain strengths which other carriers do not have, even if they may be financially more competitive.

Yet, with continuing business downtime due to failing mobile networks and data networks Telstra is eroding the confidence that I and others can have in it.

I have personally asked Telstra executives if they are at breaking point and they assure me this is not the case. However, I will reserve my judgment and hope to see us make it to the end of the financial year, at least, without further disruption.


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David M Williams

David has been computing since 1984 where he instantly gravitated to the family Commodore 64. He completed a Bachelor of Computer Science degree from 1990 to 1992, commencing full-time employment as a systems analyst at the end of that year. David subsequently worked as a UNIX Systems Manager, Asia-Pacific technical specialist for an international software company, Business Analyst, IT Manager, and other roles. David has been the Chief Information Officer for national public companies since 2007, delivering IT knowledge and business acumen, seeking to transform the industries within which he works. David is also involved in the user group community, the Australian Computer Society technical advisory boards, and education.



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