Vodafone, trying to play catch up against 3 and Orange, has launched a mobile television service in the UK with satellite broadcaster Sky.

The new service, only available to Vodafone UK's 3G customers will offer 19 mobile channels including Sky News, Sky Sports News, MTV, Cartoon Network, Discovery, Sky One and LivingTV.

To sweeten the deal, Vodafone is letting its 3G customers view all the channels including exclusive coverage of the England cricket team's tour to Pakistan from Sky Sports for free until the 31 January 2006.

From launch, all Vodafone UK customers with 3G handsets will be able to watch Sky Mobile TV on their phones in areas of 3G coverage.

There will be two Sky Mobile TV packages offering a combined total of 19 mobile channels including Sky One, Discovery, MTV, History Channel and Biography Channel. Some channels will be broadcast ‘as live' and others will be dedicated ‘made for mobile' channels, featuring regularly updated blocks of programming.

From 1 February 2006 customers will be charged £5.00 per month for each of the Sky Mobile TV packs to which they subscribe. The two Sky Mobile TV packs are:

News, Sport & Factual: Sky News; CNN; Bloomberg; Sky Sports News; At The Races; Discovery Factual; National Geographic Channel; History Channel.

Entertainment & Music: Sky One; Sky Movies; MTV; LivingTV; Discovery Lifestyle; Nickelodeon; Paramount Comedy; Cartoon Network; Bravo; Biography Channel.

Vodafone has said that additional mobile channels are likely to join Sky Mobile TV over the coming months.

“This is a highly significant day for both the mobile and television industries”, says Tim Yates, Chief Marketing Officer, Vodafone UK. "This is not a trial on a very limited number of phones or a service available on a single make of mobile, but something that all our Vodafone live! with 3G customers can experience. We currently have over 250,000 3G subscribers in the country and 72% 3G population coverage across the UK. Mobile TV will be a mainstream service”.

The technology is backwards compatible with all current 3G handsets in Vodafone UK's including launch phones like the Sony Ericsson v800, as well as the recently announced models for Christmas 2005, such as the Sharp 903.