People walk past a sign of telecommunications company Telstra in Melbourne. Picture: AFP
People walk past a sign of telecommunications company Telstra in Melbourne. Picture: AFP

Telstra under fire over Triple Zero calls

AT LEAST 1400 emergency calls couldn't get through to triple-0 in May this year due to a Telstra network outage, a government report into the incident has shown.

The Department of Communications announced a formal inquiry into the May 4 outage, with help from the Ausralian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA).

The ACMA investigation has found 3912 emergency phone calls were made during the outage and of those 1433 couldn't be connected due to the outage, while the rest weren't connected because the caller voluntarily ended the call while waiting for an operator.

The outage began at 2am and lasted several hours. It was due to a fire at a cable pit near Orange, NSW.

In the days after Telstra refused to reveal how many emergency calls had gone unconnected that morning.

Typically about 25,000 calls are made to triple-0 each day across the country - of those about 25 per cent are not considered to be emergencies.

Telstra is contracted to provide triple-0 connections for all calls.

The outage affected services in NSW, Victoria, Western Australia, South Australia and Tasmania.

Since the outage Telstra has entered into a court-enforceable undertaking to improve its network in response to the regulator's findings.

It was found Telstra had contravened a rule that requires providers to ensure triple-0 calls on their networks are carried to the operator.

"Triple Zero is the lifeline for Australians in life-threatening or emergency situations," ACMA chair Nerida O'Loughlin said.

"Community confidence in the emergency call service must be maintained."

ACMA has accepted the court enforceable undertaking by Telstra to improving the redundancy and diversity of its network, develop new disruption protocols, and to ensure its systems are up to international standards.

"The actions Telstra has already taken, and is undertaking, will help strengthen the emergency call service and minimise the risk of another disruption to this critical service," Ms O'Loughlin said.