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Virgin Mobile and easyMobile appear to be locked in a slanging match as they seek to rubbish each other's service.

Last week Virgin Mobile delivered a number of verbal punches following the launch of Stelios' latest no frills venture.

It claimed to have uncovered a string of "hidden nasties, making a complete mockery of easyMobile's 'Promise' of 'no hidden charges, no hidden features, you pay for what you use and nothing else'."

At the time Virgin Mobile's head of corporate affairs, Steven Day, said easyMobile service had "catches galore" and was the "only operator that was audacious enough to charge its customers for paying them" - a reference to the fact that punters are charged up to £1 each time they top up their PAYG service.

Today, though, easyMobile hit back, accusing Virgin Mobile of "panicking" in the face of competition.

"It's obvious that Virgin is under a lot of pressure," said easyMobile boss Frank Rasmussen.

"They are met by demands from shareholders to increase profitability per customer, and at the same time market forces require Virgin to compete on much more than a funky logo. There's no doubt Virgin is under a lot of pressure, and their reaction to the launch of easyMobile.com clearly shows that Virgin Mobile faces a difficult future."

Indeed, if the boffins are right then all mobile operators could be feeling the heat as more and more companies enter the sector. UK-based mobile consulting firm Mako Analysis reckons that there could be as many as 15 mobile phone operators selling branded services by Christmas 2006 with six new Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNO) - rumoured to include ASDA and Tiscali - up and running within the next 18 months. ®

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