Nextel

(NXTL)

added 591,000 new subscribers in the second quarter and wrung more average revenue out of each one, lifting its earnings above analysts' expectations and raising full-year expectations.

The cell-phone network operator earned $309 million, or 27 cents a share, in the latest quarter, compared with $123 million, or 39 cents a share, a year ago. (A gain from debt retirement was added to net income before calculating the year-ago per-share number.) Sales were $2.39 billion in the latest quarter compared with $2.03 billion last year.

Analysts polled by Thomson First Call were forecasting earnings of 24 cents a share on $2.47 billion in sales.

Nextel's average monthly service revenue per subscriber was about $69 in the second quarter, up from $67 in the first quarter, while customer churn, a measure of defections, was 1.6%, its best of any quarter in five years.

For the full year, Nextel now expects to earn at least $1 a share, compared with analyst forecasts of 94 cents, on 1.9 million net new subscribers.

Nextel has retired about $4.3 billion in debt and preferred stock since the first quarter of 2002, enabling it to avoid $7.1 billion in principal, interest and dividend obligations.