Telstra slams Nationals' rural mobile fix

Australia's largest mobile network company has hit out at claims mandated mobile roaming would solve the country's regional phone coverage crisis.

The Nationals have been calling for reform to the universal service guarantee by extending it from landlines to mobiles.

Party leader David Littleproud said the federal government needed to act on reforming the universal service guarantee and mandating mobile roaming.

Mr Littleproud said coverage could be shared between telephone companies, meaning Australians could get service regardless of their providers.

"In 2023, communication has never been more important," he said.

"It's critical as a safety and emergency response, enabling better commerce, business and social interaction in areas of limited network coverage."

However, Telstra said mandated mobile roaming would deliver worse outcomes for regional Australians because the incentives for providers to invest or innovate in the regions would be removed.

"Telstra has also always supported commercial roaming and other sharing solutions, where providers join forces to deliver better outcomes for customers, without removing the drivers for providers to invest in new and improved coverage," a spokesperson told AAP.

The competition watchdog found mandated mobile roaming unfeasible in 2017, saying it would likely distort the competitive dynamics in the market.

In December, the watchdog struck down a 10-year mobile infrastructure sharing deal with Telstra and TPG Telecom, finding the arrangement would mean less regional infrastructure investment due to a lack of competition.

TPG said the outcome was a loss for regional Australians and the company would take the matter to the competition tribunal.

"Infrastructure sharing will allow more mobile operators to offer their products and services in regional areas, deliver greater choice to regional communities and drive competition," TPG external affairs general manager James Rickards said.

Telstra said its attempted deal with TPG was an example of its commitment to sharing its network systems for better outcomes, but not at the cost of competition.

Network operators including Telstra, TPG and Optus have a shared commitment to improving regional network coverage thanks to $875 million in funding from the federal government's mobile blackspot program.

Despite claiming forced shared roaming would stall regional mobile infrastructure investment, Telstra said it took its obligations under the program seriously and would continue to meet its requirements.

As of October last year, 11 per cent of Australians were "highly excluded" from digital services, meaning they did not have access to or didn't know how to use online services.

In the October budget, the federal government committed $400 million to expand regional mobile coverage.