BSkyB in fast response to NTL/Virgin

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BSkyB will soon roll out a new mobile phone television service in a challenge to NTL and Virgin Mobile, if they merge.

Premium subscribers to the Sky satellite TV service will be able to download the application on to their mobile phones, allowing them to watch news and sports clips. The service could be launched this month. More advanced features - allowing viewers to set their Sky Plus recorders remotely for example - will be available next year.

BSkyB is also planning to make its live television service, currently only available to Vodafone 3G customers, available to its subscribers with any mobile handset equipped with 3G from April.

Mobile phones have become the latest platform - and battleground - for media companies to broadcast their content, with cable company NTL announcing last week that it had offered to buy Virgin Mobile.

ITV announced in September the launch of a new service allowing 3G phone users to watch highlights of programmes such as Coronation Street and X-Factor. The BBC already offers a similar service.

BSkyB launched its Sky Mobile television service at the beginning of November for Vodafone 3G users, showing 19 channels which are streamed live including Sky News and The History Channel.

In the first two weeks, Vodafone's 250,000 3G users accessed one million streams of mobile television channels, which are currently being offered at no charge. Users will have to pay £5 a month for each package of channels they subscribe to from February. BSkyB will approach other mobile network operators about providing a similar service.

For Sky's more basic television service, offering pre-recorded clips, Sky subscribers have to pay their mobile phone company the cost of downloading them.

Mobile phone companies see television as an incentive to encourage more use of 3G. In France, Orange customers can watch 50 channels, which are mostly live. These account for over half of the data use on Orange's 3G network.