Friday, August 22, 2008

Letter to Prepaid mobile accounts, Optus

Re: 0423 248 xxx

Dear Sirs/Mesdames,

What the hell is going on?

I received this morning a message on the above phone saying that my SIM card needed recharging. Yet I have used it hardly at all since the last recharge and it has remained in my possession at all times.

Then I rang the usual number to check on my account (5555) and was simply told that the number had been disconnected. No alternative number was provided. Is it chaos manor there?

If the card is indeed in need of recharge it may be connected with the recent Queensland service outage. Excessive billing at that time by you has been widely publicized. Failing that, someone else has hacked into my account. Please clarify this matter and provide me with a record of all alleged calls.

Unless the matter is resolved to my satisfaction I will have to conclude that I can no longer afford your dubious service. I will of course be posting this letter and your reply on my Optus blog:

Yours faithfully,

Dr John Ray

Thursday, August 7, 2008

The problems keep on coming

FLAWED software patches from Nokia Siemens Networks have crippled Optus's 3G mobile network in Brisbane, the telco said.

Since 6am yesterday, Optus subscribers in Brisbane suffered from intermittent transmission of data and voice services as Australia’s number two telco battled to reconfigure a recent upgrade to its new 3G software platform.

The upgrade, which has been applied to all Optus 3G mobile switches nationwide, was supposed to provide efficiency gains in speed and capacity load. Instead, it triggered three separate network failures which combined to cause chaos for Optus customers in Queensland, NSW, the ACT and Victoria last week.

As a result subscribers were left without mobile phone services for about 10 hours.

While the upgrade was successfully rolled back in Melbourne and Sydney, the problem again reared its ugly head in Brisbane.

"We had a new patch put in place in the affected areas by midday last Friday but we now have a re-emergence of a similar problem in the Brisbane area," Optus spokesperson Maha Krishnapillai said.

The network in Brisbane was online at 7am but went offline an hour later. At 4pm systems went down again.

"We're not sure how long it will take to fix this problem again but we hope soon," Mr Krishnapillai said.

He said Optus could offer no guarantees that the problem would not recur as it was related to a Nokia Siemens software fault.

"Nokia's latest version of the software was in effect 'contaminated'. We had a bug in the software so we have had to roll it back.

"The issue for us is that we have put the upgrade in other areas and have had no problems whatsoever - so it’s a bit of a lottery."

Engineers from Optus and Nokia Siemens were both responsible for the patch installation.

He said Optus was unsure why the patch had worked in some areas but not others.

"There was extensive testing on both our parts and we were also assured by Nokia Siemens that the software would work in different (network) environments," he said. "But when we went live it was a different story."

"Now we’re just hoping the patch will hold. We can’t say for sure whether or not we will have more issues over the next week in Brisbane," he said.

Nokia Siemens declined to directly address Mr Krishnapillai's claims, saying it valued its close relationship with Optus.

"We're proud of both companies' shared goal of providing a superior mobile service in Australia. Experts from both companies are working in partnership to resolve any remaining network issues, as is always the case when any outage occurs," Nokia Siemens spokesman Ben Roome said.

In the meantime Optus has requested network engineers from Nokia Siemens' Finland headquarters to rectify the problem on-site.

"We have told Nokia to fly out some engineers because we certainly won't be flying them here," Mr Krishnapillai said.

Mr Krishnapillai suggested Optus would be reviewing the service level guarantees it had in place with Nokia Siemens.

"We do have some service level guarantees with them and we will clearly be looking at whether in fact the software they have given us is up to scratch," he said.

Mr Krishnapillai ruled out Optus pursuing legal action against Nokia Siemens or seeking compensation.

"We are not looking to sue them on this, what we are doing is looking to work with them to fix it.

“As I’m sure Nokia would tell you, we are their most important customer in Australia and a very important customer throughout the SingTel group ... they will clearly want to make sure they work with us to fix this problem," he said.,25197,24141034-15306,00.html

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Nuisance text messages: Letter

PO Box 306
Salisbury South
SA 5106

Dear Sirs,

Please stop sending me promotional text messages on my cellphone no. 0423 xxxxxx. They distract me and take time and attention I do not wish to devote to them.

I look forward to your early reply to this request. I will post this letter and your reply on my Optus blog:

Yours faithfully,

Dr John Ray

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Optus overhaul misses deadline

It has been a torrid three weeks for the nation's second-largest telecommunications provider, Optus, and there's worse in store.

Following a series of network bungles, Optus has failed to meet a landmark deadline in its $160 million technology transformation overhaul.

The final leg of Project Reitz, the telco's ambitious program to consolidate its billing and customer relationship management systems, has stalled, as it has yet to finalise selection of software and systems integration suppliers to complete the project.

Optus had a self-imposed target of mid-July for the selection. The last stage of the project covers its business, wholesale and hybrid fibre coaxial residential networks. An Optus spokesperson could not nominate a new date.

"This is a complex project with many elements, therefore we are taking our time to make sure we get it right," the spokesperson said.

Accenture is currently the telco's main systems integrator and software from Oracle and its subsidiary Siebel are widely used throughout the company.

In the mix is software from Optus parent company Singapore Telecommunications.

Project Reitz is aimed at reducing myriad legacy systems as the telco moves towards a self-service model so customers can manage their subscriptions themselves.

"Like all the large IT operations companies we are looking to reduce the number of systems and we will try quite hard to use what we have.

"We are certainly looking for systems integration partners, as that has worked well for us," said Lawrie Turner, Optus's chief information officer in an interview with The Australian in mid-June.

In May 2006 Optus pledged $100 million towards the project but at its recent full-year results briefing Optus chief executive Paul O'Sullivan said Project Reitz had cost $160 million as of March 31. It was unclear how much the next stage would cost. The total could be as high as $260 million, industry observers said, and completion could take until 2010.

The project is named after Bruce Reitz, who performed the first successful heart-lung transplant in the early 1980s, and Optus has its own triple bypass tale. It began on July 14 when subscribers in Queensland and northern NSW were left without phone, mobile or internet services for more than four hours.

Two incidents merged to create the ensuing blackout: a contractor operating a backhoe on a building site at Molendinar on the Gold Coast accidentally severed a fibre optic cable. A back-up link should have kicked in but the telco's Stanthorpe point of presence had a hardware failure.

The state's peak industry body for business, Commerce Queensland, estimates that compensation claims could run into millions of dollars.

The outage drew the ire of Queensland Premier Anna Bligh, who expressed her dissatisfaction with federal Communications Minister Stephen Conroy.

Then, a little more than two weeks later, Optus experienced a second body blow when its 3G mobile network on the eastern seaboard was crippled.

Subscribers were unable to make or receive calls and internet access was disabled for more than eight hours.

To compound matters, Optus technical support personnel were providing wrong information to customers on how to overcome the issue. Instead of advising them to manually switch their mobile phones to GSM mode, users were told to keep turn their handsets on and off every second hour.


Monday, August 4, 2008

The bungles continue

OPTUS appears to be suffering another network outage, as customers in Melbourne and Sydney report problems accessing the carrier's 3G mobile phone network. Customers in Melbourne said the 3G network had been down for several hours, while the GSM network appeared to be intact. There have been similar reports in Sydney.

Optus has about 1.5 million 3G users in Australia.

One customer said he was told by an Optus representative this morning that the 3G network in Melbourne would be fully functioning by midday. "I've been unable to make or receive calls on my mobile all morning," he said on the Whirlpool broadband website.

"After a 50 minute wait listening to the Optus telephone on-hold rubbish, I was told by someone... that service will be (affecting) quite a lot of Melbournians at least till (sic) midday."

Optus spokeswoman Elizabeth Greene confirmed that there were issues with the network in Sydney and Melbourne, but did not know what the cause of the issues was. She said it was believed the Victorian network was the first to "experience issues".

In May Optus announced a $315 million 3G rollout that would introduce 750 new base stations across the country, leading to 98 per cent network coverage by the end of 2009.


Saturday, August 2, 2008

Big Optus meltdown

OPTUS 3G customers on the east coast were unable to use their mobile phones for up to 8 hours after an unknown failure crippled the telco's network.

To make matters worse, Optus's support crew were giving customers the wrong information on how to overcome the problem. [Why am I not surprised?]

One Optus 3G customer, based in Sydney, said each time she tried making a call, "connection error" would be displayed on her phone.

"I can't make calls, can't receive calls, can't access the internet ... it's a lemon," she said.

Another customer in Sydney's Milsons Point reported similar symptoms, saying that although their handset indicated a 3G signal was available they were unable to use their phones.

Optus 3G subscribers in Brisbane, the Sunshine Coast, Maitland, Lismore, and Melbourne have all reported similar problems.

Optus has over 1.4 million 3G subscribers locally.

An Optus spokeswoman confirmed the carrier's 3G network was experiencing problems but was unable to pinpoint the root cause.

"Our 3G data services in Sydney and Melbourne are currently affected by an unknown problem," she said.

The spokeswoman said Optus customers in Melbourne were without 3G data services since about 10am AEST.

The Optus spokeswoman said customers could work around the 3G outage by re-routing to the carrier's GSM network.

However, most subscribers would have to manually change the settings on their phone to Optus's 2G network.

3G subscribers to Virgin Mobile, a wholly owned subsidiary of Optus, also reported similar network failure.

Optus technical support staff advised customers that the outage affected the entire eastern seaboard.

Support staff could not say when the network would be online; instead, they were advising customers to switch their mobile on and off every other hour.

"Why didn't tech support tell me I should manually change to the 2G network? Someone hasn't briefed their people on what to say," one disgruntled Optus user said.

Today's outage is the second major network failure to hit Australia's number two telco in the past 15 days.

In mid-July Optus suffered a major communications meltdown in Queensland after a construction worker severed a major fibre optic cable on the Gold Coast.

An Optus-owned redundant route should have diverted the traffic along another path but an earlier hardware failure at the telco's backup site resulted in what Optus dubbed a "one in a million" complete network failure. [Just bad luck, Eh?]

In the ensuing communications blackout more than a million Optus customers were left without phone, mobile and internet connections for four hours.