Verizon's ( VZ) earnings rose modestly from a year ago in the third quarter, as the company's wireless unit continued to pile up user gains.

For the third quarter ended Sept. 30, the New York telco made $1.87 billion, or 67 cents a share, up from the year-ago $1.8 billion, or 64 cents a share. Revenue rose 4.6% from a year ago to $19.04 billion. On an adjusted basis excluding unusual items, latest-quarter earnings were 66 cents a share, up a penny from last year and 2 cents ahead of the Thomson First Call analyst consensus estimate.

"This was a very strong quarter both financially and operationally, as we delivered both revenue and earnings growth," said CEO Ivan Seidenberg. "We are executing well on our new product initiatives and seeing great response from the marketplace. Our revenues continue to grow as we have changed our revenue mix, stabilizing traditional wireline revenues while continuing great wireless growth."

Verizon Wireless, the company's 55%-owned cell phone service provider, added 1.9 million net new users in the quarter, while churn, measuring monthly customer defections, fell to 1.3% from 1.5% a year earlier. Wireless revenue rose 14% from a year ago to $8.4 billion.

The company said its wireline business showed 389,000 new digital subscriber line, or DSL, broadband Internet connections. Average revenue per residential customer rose 4.6% to $51.61 a month, Verizon said. But domestic telecom revenue for the quarter fell 0.7% from a year ago to $9.4 billion.

Verizon reiterated its plan to spend $15.3 billion on capital projects this year and said it would spend around $15.5 billion on those projects next year, including its acquisition of MCI. The company said it plans to pass an additional 3 million homes and businesses with its FiOS fiber-to-the-home data services next year, for a total of 6 million homes and businesses passed by year-end 2006.

Verizon said it expects 2005 revenue to rise 5.5%-5.8% from a year ago, up a bit from the 5.2% growth shown through the first nine months.

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