AT&T, Verizon Mulling India Wireless Moves

[qi:83] For AT&T (T) and Verizon (VZ), it has become impossible to ignore one of the world’s fastest-growing mobile markets: India. The Wall Street Journal reports on a recent trip AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson took to India, in which he was looking to make a wireless play in partnership with local telecom company Telecom Mahindra.

“You can’t look at the market and not get excited,” Stephenson told the Wall Street Journal. This wouldn’t be AT&T’s first Indian venture; it previously had a stake in Idea Cellular, but sold it for $210 million. That company now has a market capitalization of $8 billion.

Now there are reports that Verizon might be working with a new entrant — Videocon — as part of its India strategy. Verizon confirmed that it has a partnership with Videocon, but that is for fixed-line services including international long distance. It is still not clear if their partnership extends to the wireless business. British Telecom is also considering offering wireless services in India. India is expected to have 500 million mobile subscribers by 2010.

Update as of Monday, Oct. 1: AT&T’s Indian unit, in partnership with Mahindra, has applied for licences to provide services in all the telecoms circles or zones that make up India’s telecoms markets. lhas Yargop, president for information technology sector at Mahindra & Mahindra, told Reuters that AT&T would hold 74 percent in the partnership and Mahindra Telecommunications would own the rest.