When Telstra announced a tie-in with Apple Music, offering free subscriptions with selected plans, Apple customers were probably fairly excited; though it’s not available for Android yet (it might be soon), the service offers an excellent array of musical choice for Apple and iOS users. In other words, it’s a good offer in an era where so many offers from telcos aren’t always great.
However, it seems all is not well in the state of Telstra.
Noted prosumer (and professional IT geek by day) Stuart Ryan has noted a disturbing trend, with many, many Telstra customers taking to social media to report that there are widespread issues downloading anything from the Apple network, including Apple Music, App Stores, and this covers mobile and home connections.
What’s more disturbing is that despite first reports being made on Wednesday, Telstra has seemingly taken little recognition or ownership of the issue. Frustrated customers approached Telstra’s live chat and social media teams to ask what was going on, with inconsistent results. Ryan reports that some Telstra reps responded indicating there may be an issue, and others seemingly had no idea.
It isn’t just Ryan; Telstra customers have taken to Whirlpool in two threads (starting here and more relevantly here) to express their frustration. It wasn’t until late last night that Telstra offered some form of excuse to Ryan, tweeting:
@StuartCRyan We don't have the specifics I'm sorry, just that a cable has been cut, and this is causing some dramas. – Lindy
— Telstra (@Telstra) October 1, 2015
However, the thing that really strikes a nerve isn’t that there might be a cut cable; there’s not a news story there. Sadly, cables get cut all the time, but even though that excuse has been offered, it doesn’t make a great deal of sense. In the earlier days of the internet, where the concept of the cloud wasn’t so well developed, a cut cable really could significantly degrade performance to certain parts of the internet.
However, in 2015, there isn’t just a solitary link between Telstra and Apple; for starters, Apple content resides on hundreds, if not thousands of mirrored servers spread geographically around the entire world. Equally, Telstra doesn’t just have one “cable” connecting its network to that Apple cloud, it has many redundant links (as one of our largest carriers) … this explanation doesn’t really make sense.
Sadly, this morning, the Telstra team were significantly less helpful, indicating to Sydney Twitter user Gordy Guy that Telstra doesn’t consider itself under any obligation to share or confirm why the access to Apple’s content (and only that content) is so slow/unavailable:
@GordyPls We do not need to share or confirm the exact cause. We are working on this currently to get fixed ASAP. – Iain
— Telstra (@Telstra) October 1, 2015
As Gordy correctly points out, any network engineer worth his salt (or not even worth much of his salt) would have identified the issue by this stage, and so it does seem likely to claim that the reason for the issue is being withheld for public relations reasons, not because the cause isn’t known.
You might be wondering … why is this news, especially for Ausdroid? It’s relevant, because it shows just how reliant a mobile user can be on their platform’s cloud services. If you have an Apple device, you’re extremely reliant on their App Store working and being accessible — without this, you can’t install any new apps, or update existing ones. There’s simply no other way to do so.
At least on Android, there are alternative ways to access apps and updates (this certainly isn’t recommended for all users — it does require a little bit of knowledge, and taking a small risk), but an Android user is still highly reliant on Google’s infrastructure being accessible and reasonably quickly.
I think this is interesting, not so much because it might be something as (relatively) common as a broken cable, but more so that if this is actually the case, why hasn’t a carrier as large as Telstra got contingency plans and network options in place such that a single broken cable won’t sever an entire user-base (Apple users) from the cloud platform required to make their devices fully functional (Apple’s cloud)?
Theoretically, that same issue could arise for Android users. Let’s hope it doesn’t.