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Big Gains at Verizon Wireless

The big cell-phone service provider adds 1.7 million users in the fourth quarter, beating targets.

Verizon Wireless continued its winning streak Wednesday, posting yet another big quarter of subscriber growth.

The nation's No. 2 cell-phone service -- a joint venture of






-- booked a net gain of 1.7 million subscribers in the fourth quarter ended last month.

Analysts had expected about 1.5 million net new users for the quarter, but some investors grew concerned about stiff competition after


reported 1.8 million net subscriber additions Monday.

Verizon Wireless now has about 43.8 million subscribers, second to Cingular's 49.1 million users.

The strong performance from the cell-phone side should help soothe the ongoing worries over Verizon's shrinking core local phone business.

Verizon is set to release earnings before the market opens Thursday. Analysts expect the nation's largest phone company to post net income of 64 cents a share on sales of $18.2 billion in the fourth quarter.

Shares of the New York phone shop rose 39 cents, or 1%, to $36.39 in midafternoon trading.