Optus CEO resigns after major network outage for 10M Australians

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Millions of Australians woke up on the morning of Nov. 8 to find that their phones were completely useless. An unplanned outage from nationwide provider Optus hit customers in the middle of their morning commute and extended throughout the entire day, throwing several systems into chaos. Businesses couldn’t process electronic payments, hospitals couldn’t take phone calls, and public transport was delayed. The downtime affected some 10 million Australians, equal to about 40% of the country’s population.

Now, the outage has claimed its first head, as Optus CEO Kelly Bayer Rosmarin resigned Monday following a critical report from the Australian Senate. Her resignation puts an end to an eventful tenure as the head of Australia’s second largest telecoms company, owned by Singapore Telecommunications, also known as Singtel.

Bayer Rosmarin said in a statement released by Singtel on Monday that she has had time for “personal reflection” and her resignation is in the “best interest of Optus moving forward”.

In that statement, Singtel said Bayer Rosmarin led Optus during a “challenging period,” and that Optus delivered improved financial performance and market share gains under her tenure.

Bayer Rosmarin was appointed CEO in April 2020 and the Nov. 8 outage was the second national scandal under her leadership. She had spent a year as deputy CEO and was previously at the Commonwealth Bank of Australia.

Last September, hackers breached Optus, exposing personal customer details in what some described as the worst data breach in the company’s history. The company admitted that addresses, drivers’ licenses, and passport numbers may have been revealed in the data breach. In April, 100,000 people joined a class-action lawsuit against Optus regarding the hack.

Then, on Nov. 8, an outage left millions of Optus mobile and internet customers without connection. The nationwide outage started at around 4:00am local time; connectivity to the majority of the network was only restored around 6:00pm late that day.

A Senate inquiry on Friday revealed that Optus had not planned for a network-wide outage and therefore had no backup in place. Bayer Rosmarin also said on Friday that Optus had received customer claims of about $282,000. The company believes a software upgrade at its corporate parent, Singtel, caused the outage.

Singtel said it understood the need for Optus “to regain customer trust and confidence,” Group CEO Yuen Kuan Moon said in a statement on Monday. “We view the events in recent weeks very seriously. We fully recognize the importance of Optus’ role in providing connectivity services to the community and the importance of network resiliency and security,” he continued.

Singtel is creating a new role of chief operating officer at Optus, which will be filled by the company’s former business managing director, Peter Kaliaropoulos.

Optus chief financial officer Michael Venter will take over at the Australian telco’s interim CEO while the company conducts a global search for a new head. Like his erstwhile boss, Venter is also from the Commonwealth Bank of Australia prior to joining Optus in March 2021.

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