Certain digital cable subscribers in the UK and Ireland can begin downloading films to their computers and television programmes to their mobile phones without additional charges, Sky announced yesterday.

Sky digital customers who subscribe to two or more premium channels or who use Sky Bet and have compatible mobile phones can sign up for the mobile download service.

Users won't have to pay additional fees to Sky for downloading the sports, news, weather and entertainment programming, but they will be charged by their mobile operators for wireless downloads.

Mobile users must subscribe to 3G (third-generation services) or GPRS (General Packet Radio Service).

Sky names Vodafone, T-Mobile, Orange and Virgin Mobile as carriers operating networks in the UK or Ireland that support the application. The service is initially available only to owners of select handsets from Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Research in Motion (RIM) and Motorola.

Sky digital customers can also begin downloading films and highlights from Sky Sports to their computers. Over 200 film titles are available and Sky expects to expand that catalogue to thousands of movies.

Sky digital customers must subscribe to certain Sky channels in order to be able to access the downloads. The service is only compatible with computers running Windows XP and with broadband connection speeds of 1Mbps or faster, Sky said. Almost half of Sky digital customers have broadband, it said.

The videos are protected by Microsoft Digital Rights Management (DRM) software.

The announcement follows a growing trend of video content becoming available for download. In October, Apple led the way by selling television programmes and other video for viewing on the iPod.

Last week, Google launched a video download service that lets users buy television programmes to download to computers. In another indication that the market for downloading videos is heating up, AOL yesterday acquired Truveo, a provider of video search on the web.