Why Optus couldn’t handle World Cup
OPTUS has one more night to sort out the issues that marred the opening weekend of its World Cup broadcast as it races to shore up its network systems and salvage its World Cup campaign.
The telco was left scrambling after technical issues caused dropouts and disruptions for customers trying to stream the tournament on its online service and corresponding app.
The company's woes started on Friday night when a flood of people signed into the service right before the 10pm kick-off between Uruguay and Egypt.
Optus vice president of regulation and public affairs Andrew Sheridan told Fairfax that the telco was caught off guard by how many people signed up for Optus Sport at the last minute, reiterating explanations provided by the company on Saturday morning that it faltered under the traffic.
He said Optus didn't skimp on its back-end infrastructure and thought it had done enough to ensure the stability of its network but the late rush surprised it.
"We absolutely put a lot of investment into ensuring that we can deliver the best possible experience," Mr Sheridan said.
"I can absolutely guarantee that we did not under-cater in any shape or form."
Problems continued on Saturday night with many fans reporting buffering issues and being met with a blank screen and a playback error when trying to sign in. The second night of problems prompted a late night emergency meeting among top Optus execs and technicians, according to the Fairfax report by journalist Adam Turner.
As the company scrambled behind the scenes to fix the problems reported by customers, Optus didn't have enough time to resolve them all. When Sunday night came and went with more outrage from football fans, the telco made the extraordinary decision to allow SBS to broadcast all games for the next 48 hours, beginning last night, while the telco worked on a (hopefully) permanent fix.
Optus' World Cup streaming service is bigger and more complex than its EPL coverage and is also available on more devices and platforms, complicating its delivery. The technical difficulties the telco has faced are thought to be due to this increased complexity.
Unlike its EPL coverage (which Optus has locked in until 2022), the World Cup coverage is available to Australians who don't have an Optus broadband or Optus mobile service, which also provides a potential pain point because Optus needs to cross networks in delivering the broadcast.
Mr Sheridan said this was at the heart of buffering issues experienced by some customers trying to watch games on Apple devices running Apple software.
Optus CEO Allen Lew said the two-day deal with SBS was about creating a failsafe for its customers.
"There's no doubt this has adversely affected the Optus brand … everybody is very disappointed, to put it mildly," an apologetic Mr Lew told reporters on Monday night.
"We will use the two days we have … to robustly test the systems under different loads. We believe by that time we will have the technical issues resolved."
Optus has offered disgruntled customers affected by the technical problems a free Fetch TV set-top box while its stores have them in stock.
When asked about the prospect of refunds yesterday Mr Lew said his company would "make a public announcement about that once we announce what we are going to deliver in two days".