Sky is clearly feeling rather touchy right now, judging by its response to an announcement yesterday by Virgin Media that the cable ISP is to double from 10Mbps to 20Mbps the connection speeds for its top-end XL cable broadband.

"Virgin Media is pushing up broadband prices at a time when dramatic savings are available from other providers," it notes.

"Sky customers can enjoy download speeds of up to 16Mb per second for just £10 per month – less than a third of the price of Virgin Media's fastest service."

Sky says that in the last three months of 2006 it attracted 149,000 new broadband customers, compared with Virgin Media’s 78,000 (still trading as NTL Telewest).

However, this doesn't factor in the fact that in order to sign up to Sky Broadband and get such a deal you need to be a Sky satellite customer.

Industry commentators were quick to condemn Sky's attempt to capitalise on Virgin's long-planned speed hike announcement by pointing out that it wasn't comparing services and pricing models like for like.

A Virgin Media spokeswoman told PC Advisor that these figures are the latest published results and that figures for signups since Virgin Media launched in early February have yet to be made public.

However, she responded by saying that while it is raising the monthly cost of its XL service by £2 a month to £37 in return for doubling the bandwidth, it has no plans to increase the cost of any of its other packages.

Virgin says its 20Mbps service is aimed a those who are happy to pay a premium for speed and are generally gamers, heavy downloaders and those sharing a wireless network. She went on to say that in the case of Virgin's 20Mbps cable service, customers know that they are getting the full speed, rather than having a contended service, as is the case with ADSL broadband, where network traffic and other factors can make the true connection speed far lower.

Sky is gunning for Virgin Media after two failed to reach agreements over Sky TV broadcasts on Virgin’s quad-play broadband, TV, mobile phone and landline bundles.

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