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Verizon Wireless added 2 million net new subscribers for the fourth quarter, setting a record for the No. 2 cell phone service provider.

The Bedminster, N.J., venture of New York telco


(VZ) - Get Verizon Communications Inc. Report

and British wireless outfit


(VOD) - Get Vodafone Group Plc Report

said it added 7.5 million net new users in 2005 and ended the year with 51.3 million customers. The


joint venture of


(T) - Get AT&T Inc. Report


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is the nation's leading cell phone service by number of customers, but that Atlanta-based company has been growing much more slowly in recent quarters.

took a look at wireless user trends in a story two weeks ago.

"While adding record volumes of new customers, the company maintained strong margins throughout the year," Verizon Wireless said.

The news came as junior venture partner Vodafone spoke of the rising value of the Verizon Wireless franchise, the

Associated Press


In London, CEO Arun Sarin said the value of Vodafone's 45% stake in Verizon Wireless had risen sharply. He noted that the U.S. still has plenty of room for growth with only 70% penetration, unlike European markets where penetration rates have hit 100% or higher.

"The financial benefits of holding on to our asset over the last couple of years have been very compelling," he said, according to


. "That is why the board has not chosen to sell this asset at this time.

"I'm not saying we won't sell the asset in the future," he added. "We will make sure when we sell this asset we get maximum value."