quarterly profit doubled Wednesday but fell just short of Wall Street's expectations.

The Kansas-based telco made $472 million, or 31 cents a share, for the first quarter ended last month. That's up from the year-ago $225 million, or 16 cents a share, but a penny shy of the 32-cent Thomson First Call analyst consensus estimate. Revenue rose to $6.94 billion from $6.71 billion a year earlier.

The company added 1.3 million wireless users in the latest quarter, including 518,000 from direct retail channels. Sprint also has a thriving wholesale wireless business that added some 800,000 subs in the first quarter.

"Sprint's solid performance in the first quarter reflects the continued dedication of our employees in pursuing 2005 objectives while also focusing on our proposed merger with Nextel and the planned subsequent spin-off of our local operations," said CEO Gary Forsee.

"Key strategic initiatives that focus on industry growth areas have enabled us to widen our lead in wireless data, expand DSL and wireless sales in our local markets, and drive network convergence in long distance. We will continue to focus on executing our 2005 plans while preparing to launch Sprint Nextel. I fully expect Sprint Nextel will be the company with the best growth profile of any of the integrated telecom companies, will engage the best people in the industry, and will be the best positioned to take full advantage of the emerging converged data-services marketplace."

Churn, reflecting wireless customers lost each month, dropped to 2.5% in the latest period from 2.7% in the fourth quarter. Average revenue per user dropped to $61 from $62 in the fourth period.

Sprint closed Tuesday at $22.54.