U.S. phone company AT&T Inc. said on Monday its Indian unit has applied for licences to provide services in the world's fastest growing wireless market in partnership with India's Mahindra Group.

AT&T said in a statement it had applied with Mahindra Telecommunications Private Ltd for licences in all the telecoms circles or zones that make up India's telecoms markets.

India, which currently has 12 telecoms service providers, had set an Oct. 1 deadline for applications for new licences after a recent spate of applications, including from real estate firms DLF, Unitech and Parsvnath Developers.

The basic point is that AT&T wants to enter the business in India ... obviously AT&T sees a big opportunity, Ulhas Yargop, president for information technology sector at group flagship Mahindra & Mahindra, told Reuters.

Yargop said AT&T would hold 74 percent in the partnership and Mahindra Telecommunications would own the rest. AT&T already holds licences for national long distance and international calls in India in a joint-venture with Mahindra Telecommunications.

India's mobile providers have been signing up more than 8 million users every month recently, and analysts have forecast subscribers will rise to 500 million in five years from 200 million now.

Vodafone Group Plc, the world's second-biggest mobile firm, earlier this year paid $11.1 billion for a controlling stake in Hutchison Essar, since renamed Vodafone Essar, from Hong Kong-based Hutchison Telecom International.

India's diversified Videocon Group has also applied for telecoms licences and aims to partner a U.S. firm, its chairman told Reuters last week.