Telco CEO quits after admitting she needs to carry rivals' SIM cards to stay in touch
That, plus an outage, and cyber-mess, do for Optus boss Kelly Bayer Rosmarin
The CEO of Australian telco Optus, Kelly Bayer Rosmarin, has resigned after deciding it was in the best interests of her former employer.
Bayer Rosmarin's resignation follows a November 8 outage that saw around ten million Australians unable to connect to any Optus services for fourteen hours.
Optus hid its explanation of the outage in an FAQ at the bottom of this page, where the incident is described as follows:
At around 4.05am Wednesday morning, the Optus network received changes to routing information from an international peering network following a software upgrade. These routing information changes propagated through multiple layers in our network and exceeded preset safety levels on key routers. This resulted in those routers disconnecting from the Optus IP Core network to protect themselves.
It was later revealed that the source of the routing information was Singtel, the Singapore-based telco that owns Optus. The Optus network connects to Singtel internet exchanges in North America and Asia.
Optus later blamed the incident on default settings in its Cisco routers, which couldn't cope with the volume of changes sent by Singtel as they exceeded safety limits. Optus's submission explaining the outage is, however, silent on or why its network accepted such changes without testing their impact on its kit – a common and sensible approach to operating mission-critical infrastructure.
What is known is that the issue required physical intervention to restore some of the 200 impacted routers.
Australia, as Douglas Adams might have put it, is big. Really big. So crossing the country to fix routers took time.
While Optus techs did the job, even the phone number used to summon emergency services was not available. Thousands of small businesses were unable to process electronic payments – a big deal in a nation where just 13 percent of retail transactions are settled with cash.
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The danger Optus's outage posed, and the mass inconvenience, earned Bayer Rosmarin an appearance before a parliamentary committee.
Optus is no stranger to explaining itself to Australia's government. In 2022 it suffered a major data breach that saw some of its customers forced to acquire new drivers licenses and/or passports after their credentials leaked.
Yet Bayer Rosmarin did not do well in her appearance regarding the outage, revealing that the nation's second-largest telco's disaster recovery regime did not envisage a total network outage. Another admission was that the former CEO's personal DR strategy had evolved to see her carry SIM cards for Australia's two rival mobile networks.
Her Friday appearance, and her firm's poor track record, filled plenty of weekend newspaper feature pages.
Come Monday, with anger far from dissipating, Bayer Rosmarin resigned.
Left unanswered is how Singtel poisoned the network in the first place, amid an undercurrent of concern that a foreign carrier – even one from a friend like Singapore – had deep enough access to an Australian network to bring it down.
A search for a new CEO has commenced. One candidate considered a front runner for the job is Gladys Berejiklian, already an Optus exec and a former premier (the equivalent of a US governor) of Australia's most populous state, New South Wales. Berejiklian, however, is trying to see off a finding of corruption related to her time in office, when she promised her (then) secret boyfriend – a fellow government MP – that she would secure funding for pet projects in his electorate. The boyfriend also allegedly discussed questionable property deals but Berejiklian failed to act.
Some of that evidence was gathered from surveillance of phone calls between the pair.
If only she'd used Optus instead. ®