Telstra CEO Andrew Penn has conceded that sabotage cannot be ruled out as a cause of the fire that damaged one of its cables in early May, taking down emergency triple zero call services in the process.
Emergency triple zero call services and mobile Telstra services in at least four states were hit by intermittent “interruptions” early on 4 May after a cable was damaged by fire – at the time thought to be likely caused by a lightning strike -- in regional NSW.
The telco said on social media at the time that a fibre repair crew dispatched to a cable pit east of Orange reported significant fire damage consistent with lightning strike.
The company said it would complete a full investigation to verify the cause of the fire.
As reported by SBS News late last month, NSW Rural Fire Service chief superintendent Ben Millington subsequently revealed that an investigation by the NSW Rural Fire Service eliminated all potential causes for the fire except for “electrical infrastructure or possible arson”.
He said that there was no lightning in the area at the time.
It is understood that a copy of the NSW Rural Fire Service’s findings was given to police.
In an interview with 3AW radio host Neil Mitchell on 5 June, Penn conceded that sabotage could not be ruled out as a potential cause of the fire and the resulting triple zero service outage.
“You can’t [rule out sabotage] in the sense that they have not been able to get to the source of it; personally, do I think it was sabotage? I think it’s a very low probability, but look, you never know,” Penn said. “They haven’t been able to completely conclude on what the cause was.
“We…handed that investigation over to the fire authorities, and they’ve completed their investigation, and basically the results have come back as inconclusive, they’re not able to demine or pinpoint the cause of the fire,” he said.
The cable damage and subsequent outage came amid a flurry of outages suffered by some of the country’s largest telecommunications providers.
The service disruptions arrived just days after Telstra was hit by a partial network outage, with 4G voice calls in various areas around the country affected by the service disruption on 1 May.
Just a day later, fellow telecommunications provider iiNet found itself scrambling to restore internet services for customers after some of its services and tools were disconnected due to power problems at a data centre in Western Australia.