Cause of Telstra’s mobile outages ‘common to all networks’, telco says

Telstra defends network performance

Telstra this morning defended the performance of its mobile network following outages in February and March.

The telco said that, despite different primary causes for each of its recent outages, the large scale disruptions were the result of multiple devices trying to simultaneously re-establish connection to the network, overloading key components of the end-to-end system and exacerbating the impact of the initial outage.

Telstra’s head of networks, Mike Wright, told a press briefing: “The ability of mobile networks to deal with these mass re-registration events is not unique to us. It is a global issue and something our experts are telling us is being faced by many in the industry.”

Wright said that while each of the outages had had different triggers, “the common characteristic is the ability of a lot of the devices to reregister on the network.”

“That is how cellular works and has worked from day one,” he said.

“Devices log on for voice and log on for data… some of the mechanisms and the way they interwork with each other did not manage the traffic into end.”

For example, the March outage was precipitated by a failure in an international cable link used to support overseas visitors roaming onto the Telstra network.

This fault caused large numbers of overseas mobiles to try and re-register on the network, and the resulting overload impacted local users whose devices also tried to re-register compounding the problem.

Telstra’s chief operations officer, Kate McKenzie, said the basic traffic handling capacity of the network was not the problem and this had been amply demonstrated on its free data day on 3 April when a record 2686 terabytes of data were downloaded, a 46 per cent increase on the volume during Telstra’s previous free data day in February.

One user downloaded a massive 994 gigabytes. “That’s as much as the average user would download in 40 years,” McKenzie said.

Wright said Telstra had made a number of changes to fine-tune the system and he believed these combined would reduce the likelihood of a similar occurrence in the future: “There are multiple elements in the traffic management chain.We have made a number of adjustments and we believe the system is far more capable of handling the reregistration mechanism.”

Increasingly, Wright said, Telstra is using data analytics tools to identify issues with its network and to optimise performance.

“Social media is now one of our inputs. Technology can tell you things, but sometimes so too can your customers,” the telco executive said.

Telstra will also increase the processing power of the home location register – the master database that contains details of every subscriber and which is used to authenticate devices and allow them access to the network.

However Wright said this was a precautionary measure, not an indication that limitations in the register had contributed to outages.

He refuted criticisms that Telstra has cut back on internal resources leaving it less able to deal with major network issues: “We have all the capabilities we believe we need and I continue to be very proud of our engineers, but we’re certainly not saying that we cannot get an external review.”

McKenzie said that Telstra had initiated a review of its network using its vendors, and independent experts.

“We are very keen to bring a fresh set of eyes from someone not connected to the network, so we are working with Ericsson, Cisco and Juniper as well as our own internal engineering experts to give an end-to-end review and while that is underway we are managing any changes in the network carefully,” she said.

“We expect to review to be completed in a month or so, not much longer.”

She added: “We have an independent expert, Dave Williams, an international expert with expertise in this type of network. He’s associated with Tech Mahindra and he is providing us with a resource to do a triple check, to see is there anything we have missed. Are we looking at the right things? Is there some stone left unturned?”

Williams will report to McKenzie.

Read more: Vodafone completes rollout of 4G across its network

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags NetworkingTelecommunicationsTelstra

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Stuart Corner

Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?