Norwegian telecom firm Telenor will become the 12th operator in the Indian market when it launches its operations on Thursday, a company statement said.

Intense competition has been a hallmark of the telecommunications industry in the world's second-most populous country, where it is driving drastic cuts in call charges.

Last year Telenor bought into a nascent telecom firm floated by Indian realty Unitech Ltd, and it will launch its services under the Uninor brand in different parts of Asia's third-largest economy.

Telenor's move into India is likely to be followed by new launches by United Arab Emirate's Etisalat ETEL.AD and Bahrain's Batelco BTEL.BH, as existing firms scramble to sign up users by drastically dropping call charges.

Tata Teleservices, the No. 6 operator, was the first to launch per-second billing earlier this year, deviating from the industry norm of per-minute billing. The offer was a roaring success.

Mobile services leaders Bharti Airtel, Reliance Communications and Vodafone Essar have all followed suit and launched the per-second billing that, analysts said, will significantly dent profit margins of the operators.

Last month, Telenor CEO Jon Fredrik Baksaas said the company would price its call charges in India competitively but would not be the most aggressive. The company is aiming for an 8 percent share within five years of the India launch.

India has more than 480 million wireless subscribers and the market is growing rapidly with an average 14 million new users a month this year.

(Reporting by Sumeet Chatterjee; Editing by Sharon Lindores)