Optus Outage: Whatphone data shows users desperate to switch providers

The 16-hour Optus network outage didn’t just leave people and businesses high and dry. It was a huge blow to the telco giant’s reputation, causing thousands of Aussies to search for alternative networks the same day.

On Wednesday 8 November, the entire Australia-wide Optus network failed after an update rolled out at 4am. All Optus phone plans, EFTPOS services and broadband connections were down until 9pm. Some services were cut off for up to 16 hours.

Melbourne’s major rail network ground to a halt, leaving commuters stranded and many without means to order a rideshare. Remote workers, small businesses, schools, hospitals, banks and government departments were left with no way to communicate or process payments. 

The cost to small businesses left without EFTPOS services in a cashless world is yet to be calculated, but estimated to be in the millions. 

MVNOs also suffered

It wasn’t just Optus customers who were affected. Smaller telcos such as Dodo and Southern Phone, who resell the Optus network, were powerless to help customers marooned without internet or broadband. 

The outage prompted thousands of Australians to search for alternative telcos that use the Telstra network instead. 

On phone plan comparison site whatphone.com.au, searches for alternative networks bumped up by almost 900% on Wednesday.

Across the top searched pages, the highest traffic increase was for “mobile plans on the Telstra network”, which took 36.7% of visitor traffic.

Other highly-searched terms included “which network does TPG use?” and “how to cancel an Optus plan”.

eSIM plans, which allow you to download your new phone plan without needing a physical SIM card, also saw a bump from desperate Aussies who needed uninterrupted phone and internet services. 

Optus network crash

Telstra still on top

From the data, it appears Telstra could be the big winner of the Optus network crash. It has the largest network in Australia, covering 98.8% of the population with 4G and over 80% with 5G. 

While the disastrous interruption to normal life has caused consumers to search for safer alternatives, the Communications Minister Michelle Rowland is calling for a review of all network providers “given no network is immune.”

In the meantime, the incident has been a reminder for Australians to have a backup plan if another outage occurs.