Optus’ Outage: a reality check for business resilience


11 / 10 / 2023


by Ed Jennings

Last week, a major disruption to the services of Australian telecommunications provider, Optus, created havoc for millions of customers and businesses across Australia. The 14-hour outage – one of the nation’s most significant telecommunications outages – led to huge disruptions to both mobile and internet services, leaving business operations (and even train lines!) stranded and unable to operate.

As Optus worked against the clock to restore services, the impact was immediately evident. A mass exodus of Optus end-users seeking improved connectivity meant that rival telecommunication companies experienced a significant uptick in both sales and requests for porting between providers.

This incident underscores the critical need for robust digital connectivity. Businesses, now acutely aware of the potential risks associated with service outages, are recognising the vital importance of a reliable and resilient communication infrastructure to ensure uninterrupted operations in our digitally connected world.

So, how can occupiers, as well as building owners and developers, safeguard against another outage like this from any supplier? To ensure business continuity and resilient digital connectivity, occupiers are advised to prioritize three levels of diversity:

  1. Supplier diversity
  2. Physical diversity
  3. Logical diversity

Supplier diversity

By adopting supplier diversity, an occupier would have engagements with entirely distinct service providers for their internet and cellular services, giving them an option to fall back on should an outage happen. For instance, occupiers relying on a single provider may have traditionally employed a secondary fixed line or mobile connection as a backup to their primary connection. However, as we witnessed with the recent Optus outage, dependency on a single service provider leaves businesses vulnerable when both primary and backup options from one supplier become compromised.

WiredScore certification for offices helps landlords and developers to benchmark and improve their digital connectivity infrastructure to mitigate the risk of an internet or mobile outage for users of their building. In turn, occupiers can use the certification to identify buildings that have done this. The certification criteria rewards the presence of multiple service providers and different techonolgies in a building to which occupiers can connect.

Physical diversity

Physical diversity refers to physically distinct or separate network infrastructure, ensuring there is no single point of failure in the connectivity infrastructure in your building. An example would be having two separate fibre entry points into a building. This allows for a more robust and reliable network infrastructure, addressing physical vulnerabilities.

The WiredScore certification scorecard emphasises the importance of physical diversity. WiredScore recommends multiple points of entry and physically separate pathways throughout an office building, all the way to the occupier’s space, to ensure resilient and digital connectivity.

Logical diversity

Finally, logical diversity. Logical diversity is keeping the data on the network separate, despite using the same physical pathway (e.g. fibre cable). This allows occupiers in office A to work on network A, while occupiers in office B work on network B, each with their own separate speed, bandwidth and security constraints that do not overlap.

Although logical diversity is not directly controllable by the end user, it is something that all suppliers use to try and mitigate human error. The Optus outage would appear to be a physical problem deep within their network and therefore affecting all logical pathways.

Having supplier, physical and logical diversity options available to occupiers enables them to ensure they will not be caught out by any type of internet connectivity failure.

For landlords and developers, the value of introducing physical and supplier diversity is clear. Multiple connectivity entry points, a wide choice of Internet Service Providers and more than one mobile operator means that a building’s occupiers are offered a failsafe option if they want it. In fact, buildings that are WiredScore Silver and above give occupiers the ability to avoid an outage like this, as any building certified Silver or above will have both supplier and physical diversity.

Last week’s Optus outage certainly highlighted the critical importance of, and growing demand for, resilient digital connectivity. Moreover, with climate change, the risk to critical infrastructure is only expected to grow, as is the demand from occupiers for higher levels of resiliency. It is therefore no surprise that many organizations are now adopting a wider ESG+R strategy to put resilience at the forefront of their decision-making.

For more insights on fortifying your digital infrastructure, contact WiredScore to learn how to navigate the future of in-building digital connectivity.

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