Verizon ( VZ) posted a stronger-than-expected third-quarter profit, as the big telco added 1.6 million wireless users.

The New York company made $1.27 billion, or 44 cents a share, for the quarter ended Sept. 30, down from the year-ago continuing operations profit of $1.53 billion, or 53 cents a share. Revenue rose 5.8% from a year ago to $23.77 billion. Excluding certain items, earnings were 63 cents a share in the latest quarter.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial were looking for a 62-cent profit on sales of $23.67 billion.

"Our third-quarter results show that we have hit our stride as a leading wireless, broadband and enterprise company," said Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg. "In recent years, we have transformed our business model and revenue base. Our results throughout 2007, and especially in the third quarter, show that our strategy has been successful. We expect to build on these results in the fourth quarter and beyond."

Revenue at the company's 55%-owned Verizon Wireless joint venture with U.K. telco Vodafone ( VOD) rose 14% from a year ago to $11.3 billion, as wireless data revenue surged 63%. The company said churn, reflecting monthly customer defections, was 1.2% for retail customers and a shade under 1% for the lucrative postpaid customers Wall Street is most interested in. Average service revenue per user rose 1.9% from a year ago to $52.17.

The news comes as Verizon Wireless and AT&T ( T) continue to gain users at the expense of struggling Sprint ( S).

Wireline revenue fell 0.8% from a year ago to $12.7 billion, as consumer revenue fell 2.2% and data revenue rose 13%. The company added 202,000 new customers for its FiOS fiber optic TV service and 229,000 FiOS Internet service users. Including digital subscriber line, or DSL, new adds, the company added 285,000 broadband connections in the quarter.