News / Featured / 12th October 2023
Case closed? Optus responds to service drop-outs
In last week’s edition of the Coonabarabran Times, we heard from some locals about issues the community has been having with Optus mobile service. In search of an explanation, we contacted Optus and our Federal Member for some answers – following is what they had to say.
Optus Territory general manager, Northern NSW, Chris Simon said Optus was committed to expanding and enhancing their network and explained the reason for the local outage on Tuesday, 3 October.
“Recently, our network coverage in Coonabarabran and Binnaway encountered disruptions due to a fibre break caused by an external party, and a power failure,” Mr Simon said.
“The sites impacted have since been restored, with service resuming as usual.”
Mr Simon said Optus was actively exploring plans to improve customer experience in the region.
“Our team will be conducting a comprehensive site inspection, providing insight into the coverage status and improvements required to bolster our network resiliency.”
He said Optus had added nine mobile sites within the Parkes electorate to their network since 2019, and that the company was committed to ongoing investments.
In the meantime, Mr Simon said enabling Wi- Fi calling accessibility was a great way to stay connected, especially during emergencies or natural disasters.
“Customers can call 000 even if their mobile provider does not have network coverage in the area – the call will be carried on any available mobile network,” he said.
When asked for an explanation for the sporadic outages that local customers were facing almost every day, Mr Simon said this week, Optus team members would be conducting comprehensive site health checks in an effort to improve transmission link stability in Coonabarabran.
“These efforts are aimed at addressing the minor daily service disruptions being experienced,” he said.
“We are committed to enhancing the connectivity experience for customers in this region.
“Expect further updates as we prioritise implementing a solution.”
Federal Member for Parkes, Mark Coulton said he was aware there were connectivity issues for Optus users in the Warrumbungle Shire, including the recent outage in Coonabarabran.
“At this point I have not yet been informed as to the reasons for the Optus outage in Coonabarabran, however, my office is aware of it and been following the situation,” he said.
Mr Coulton explained that although the Federal Government was responsible for telecommunications, it was a shared responsibility with multiple party involvement, including individuals, network providers, and State Governments.
“In this space I have fought for better connectivity across the regions, as I am aware of how great a need this is, especially in rural or remote areas,” Mr Coulton said.
“I live in a rural area and travel frequently in remote Australia, so I know well the limitations of poor connectivity and the impact of mobile black spots.”
Mr Coulton said moving forward, he would continue to advocate for improved connectivity and that his office had raised many issues with providers over the years and had even helped individuals find workarounds for the connectivity issues.
“I encourage those struggling with connectivity issues in our regions to make use of the Australian Government’s Regional Tech Hub, which may provide advice or solutions on telecommunications services in your area.”
In reference to connectivity issues during emergencies, Mr Coulton said the Coalition Government initiated steps to implement a Public Safety Mobile Broadband capability (PSMB) in recognition of the safety aspects of connectivity.
“This capability has now been allocated a taskforce under the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) to ensure that in the case of natural disasters, hazards and threats, Australians are able to stay as safe as possible, even in areas with poor connectivity.”
Local woman, Sara Gordon, said she had been plagued by Optus drop outs, often in emergency situations.
“I have had several moments when I have needed to contact a close friend in a hurry, but if she isn’t at home with Wi-Fi, then I can’t reach her,” Sara said.
“Last week, I was trying to call her as we were racing to Gunnedah, as my daughter was in labour and I couldn’t get through – no service.
“A few months ago, I was trying to call her as her niece was missing and, again, I couldn’t get through.
“It is absolutely appalling that anyone is paying for Optus these days – they spend more time down than working.”
How to complain
For some customers, the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman may also be an appropriate avenue to seek assistance for ongoing mobile service issues.
Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman media unit said in the last financial year, they had received over 20,000 complaints from NSW.
Of these 20,000 complaints, just 21 were made by people and small businesses in the Warrumbungle Shire.
Most of these complaints were in relation to poor customer service, problems with a bill, having no phone or internet service, and poor mobile coverage.
Though the Ombudsman cannot compel a telco to build additional infrastructure, they can help in situations where customers were sold a service that doesn’t work as expected.
To make a complaint, visit www.tio.com.au or call 1800 062 058.