Telstra apologises after triple zero emergency number crash
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Telstra apologises after triple zero emergency number crash

Telstra says it is "deeply sorry" after a major network issue caused chaos around the country on Friday morning.

All telecommunications companies were hit by the serious network issue that also prevented people from being able to call the triple zero emergency number across Australia.

Fire damage at the Telstra cable pit east of Orange.

Fire damage at the Telstra cable pit east of Orange.

Photo: Supplied

A cable cut about 2.05am on Friday caused phone issues for customers across the country and, by 8am, there were still intermittent interruptions to emergency calls in NSW, Victoria and Western Australia.

Fibre repair crews were on the site of the cable pit east of Orange, and they found significant fire damage "consistent with lightning strike", the spokesman said.

The cable was restored just before midday, the Telstra spokesman said, and triple zero call services were returning to normal.

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"We are working with emergency services and our government and enterprise customers to manage any residual issues," the spokesman said.

"We are deeply sorry for the interruptions."

The Telstra spokesman confirmed that it is the provider of the service to all other providers.

Telcos were in crisis meetings on Friday morning, with some issuing social media posts telling customers of the outage.

Vodafone responded by calling back customers who had rung emergency services to "check on their welfare and offer assistance," a spokeswoman said.

Services appeared to be restored for some providers earlier in the day, including TPG Telecom whose chief operating officer Craig Levy said mid-morning tests showed emergency calls were coming through.

Problem first noticed by emergency services

The disruption to triple zero calls was first picked up by police, fire and ambulance call centres about 2am, emergency services said.

While some people struggled to get through to operators, the State Emergency Operations Controller acting Deputy Mark Walton said no one had died nor been seriously harmed as a result.

“The reliability of the service is still a concern,” he said.

“The technical elements of that really remain unresolved.

“What I can, again, reassure everyone is that there's been no loss of service.”

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Mr Walton said state emergency services had contingency plans in place for events such as this, and the public “should be confident” their emergency calls would be answered.

While there's no indication when the full triple zero emergency call service will be restored, he said people should continue to call that number in an emergency.

"If people can't get through on triple zero, they're still advised to call the Police Assistance Line on 131 444," he said.

NSW Ambulance acting Assistant Commissioner Tony Gately said there was no indication anyone had died or been seriously affected by the outage.

"We're continuing to monitor and assess and we're doing everything we can to make sure that we provide ambulance service, and working closely with other agencies to make sure the public is safe," he said.

A spokesman for Victoria's emergency call answering service ESTA said it was aware of the problem, but urged people to keep trying triple zero if they cannot get through on the first go.

"We're making every attempt to call them back," he said.

While NSW Ambulance did not have an exact number of people affected, Queensland Ambulance Service said it had identified 11 patients "who experienced a delay in getting through to our operations centres",

"Of the affected patients we’ve contacted, we’re satisfied there has not been any adverse impact to their care," the QAS said.

"We will continue to rigorously monitor the service throughout the day."

Queensland Police said they were aware of emergency call issues in other parts of the country, but triple zero calls were still getting through in Queensland. 

A spokeswoman for the Australian Communications and Media Authority, which regulates and monitors carriage service providers and the emergency call service for triple zero, said it was working with Telstra to fix the problem.

"The ACMA is closely liaising with Telstra about the recent disruptions to its network which affected calls to the triple zero service," the spokeswoman said.

"At this stage the ACMA’s primary concern is the restoration of access to triple zero as quickly as possible."

She said the emergency call service was provided by Telstra under contract to the federal government.

Services issues widespread

Telstra customers including businesses and government departments are also having problems with their phone lines after the cable fire.

The NSW Department of Justice said it experienced interruptions to its court registries and calls to the NSW Court Services Centre, but a department spokesman said phones were up and running again at 9.40am.

Commonwealth Bank also apologised to customers who were experienced difficulties due to supplier network issues.

“We are aware some customers may be having difficulties with some of our services. This is due to network issues with our supplier,” the bank tweeted.

“We apologise for the inconvenience and have our teams working on this as a priority.”

It's the second widespread network outage for Telstra within a week.

On Tuesday, Telstra customers across the country were unable to make or receive calls for about three hours after a major network outage.

Telstra said it became aware of that issue with its NBN and 4G networks about 1pm, and by 4pm a company spokesman said the problem had been fixed.

The issue on Tuesday was caused by technical changes made ahead of upgrades to mobile traffic control equipment in Telstra’s Exhibition Street exchange in Melbourne, the Telstra spokesman said.

At that time, NSW Police were concerned the outage would affect emergency calls, and advised people requiring help to use a landline or call from a mobile on another carrier.

Rachel Clun is a reporter at the Sydney Morning Herald. She was previously a reporter with the Brisbane Times and Domain.

Jennifer Duke writes about media and telecommunications.

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