India could leapfrog many European operators and get LTE into the market next year, and AT&T could be looking for a return to the huge market.
The long delays and limited spectrum associated with 3G will make carriers eager to push forward into 4G, say hopeful suppliers, and regulator Trai is to send its proposals for next generation services to the government by June.
Meanwhile, the first wave of LTE deployments will be in the 2.3GHz BWA spectrum, auctioned last year, which supports the TDD mode. AT&T may be looking to get a new foothold in India via this band, and is in talks to acquire Qualcomm's licenses, according to local reports cited by DNA.
Qualcomm acquired licenses in several regions, including the largest cities Delhi and Mumbai, as a means to get TD-LTE into India rather than Wimax, which until that time had been expected to dominate the BWA roll-outs.
Qualcomm is working with two local partners but has said it would sell off its spectrum at an early stage.
AT&T exited the Indian mobile market in 2006, when it divested its stake in a venture with Tata and the Aditya Birla Group, and an attempt to re-enter in 2008 broke down.
Foreign participation in last year's 3G auctions was far less than had been anticipated, because of regulatory restrictions, the strength of incumbent cellcos, and the high cost of spectrum.