Updated from 9:30 a.m. EDT

Sprint PCS

(PCS)

drastically missed consensus earnings estimates, today while reporting a slightly better-than-expected number of new subscribers in the quarter.

The company reported an overall mixed quarter, but investors largely focused on the upside, including some encouraging metrics -- improved average revenue per user, pared down losses, a sign that it had no plans to engage in a voice-minute price war ? which boosted shares 78 cents, or 15.60% to $5.78 by mid-day, with shareholders giving it a thumbs up for maintaining amid the downturn.

The wireless tracking stock of

Sprint

(FON)

reported a net loss of $173 million, or 17 cents a share loss, compared to a loss of $250 million, or 26 cents share loss in the same period last year. Wall Street expected the company to post a 7 cents to 8 cents share loss.

Revenues surged 32% year over year to $3.02 billion, from $2.29 billion from the same period a year ago, and 6% sequentially, from $2.85 billion last quarter.

"The second quarter for both the FON Group and PCS Group was marked by a number of positives including strong average revenue per user in the PCS Group and effective cost-containment in the FON Group," said Sprint CEO William Esrey in a prepared statement. "However, we also experienced revenue challenges in the FON Group and lower customer additions in the PCS Group."

All anyone could think about was Sprint PCS' ARPU gains to $63, up from $62 year-over-year, and $60 last quarter.

Shares of Sprint PCS tanked yesterday, sandwiched between anticipation of worse than expected results and ballooned expectations of

Nextel

(NXTL)

-driven upside surprises. Nextel, long ridiculed as one of the worst performing of the wireless carriers, surprised investors and swung to profitability on Tuesday, pushing its shares over 30%

"Nextel's 2Q results were spectacular," wrote Bernstein Research wireless carrier analyst Alex Trofimoff yesterday in a note on short-term buy opportunities to investors. "However, we believe Nextel results may make the compare for other carriers tough and could result in a return to some investor pessimism on the sector." He compared Sprint PCS' surprising results in the first quarter that sent shares up 30% over a matter of days, "only to see the stock give back all their gains after successively more lackluster earnings reports from competitors." Trofimoff has an outperform rating on both Nextel and Sprint PCS.

Moreover, what's of some concern for Sprint PCS investors, especially after Nextel is that it looks unlikely either Sprint PCS or

AT&T Wireless

(AWE)

, due to report next week, will have reduced their debt in nearly the same fashion as Nextel.

Net new subscribers reached 308,000 through its own direct channels, slightly exceeding lowered estimates, 300,000, which were halved by the company last month. Group affiliates added an additional 86,000 customers.

Investors were also somewhat disappointed after anticipating the company would give an indication of when it plans to finally launch its nationwide high- speed data network. Revenues from wireless access are expected to boost average revenue per user in the long term, but more importantly, executives pointed out, was that promotion of the network would drive more traffic to Sprint stores. The company remained vague on a conference call to analysts, maintaining their summer deadline. Summer officially ends in late September.

While it has not stated publicly exactly when it is expected to launch, analysts said it missed an internal July deadline. In a conference call with investors, Audiovox, which manufactures a device for the network, blamed Sprint PCS' delay, adding that it expected the network to launch on August 10th.

Until this network launches, before new customers begin streaming through its doors, one metric will concern investors. The cost to acquire new customers rose $350 in the second quarter, a 16% increase from $300 in the same period last year. Moreover, customer churn increased to 2.9%, up year-over-year from 2, but down sequentially from 3%. Long the leader in bringing in new customers, the company has redoubled efforts in recent months to weed out credit-risk subscribers by instituting a deposit fee for service.

Sprint stuck to its guidance for the full year, expecting net customer additions to decrease 10% to 15% to 2.5 million to 2.7 million, calling those goals "challenging but achievable." It also maintained it expects a 30% growth in revenues to $12.65 billion, operating income to reach $600 million. Full year earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization was guided down slightly to $2.9 billion, from $3 billion expectations. Capex for the full year will be $3.3 billion.