Verizon Wireless boosts revenue in lagging quarter

Verizon's was a mixed bag of wins and losses, with sales falling US$400 million short of the $25 billion forecast by Wall Street analysts. President Dennis Strigl trotted out familiar themes: Customers are getting rid of their landlines at home and at work, and layoffs all over mean employers are taking back and turning off phones they bought for employees.

But there's one bright spot: , America's largest wireless network, boosted revenue by 12 percent. (Verizon Wireless is a partnership owned 55% by Verizon and the rest by the Vodafone Group.) There were three factors behind the gain:

-- Verizon Wireless added 1.4 million net subscribers in Q4, not as hot as last year's 2 million increase, but good enough in this economy.

-- The average customer's monthly bill crept up 1.4 percent from last year, to $51.72. With new customers hard to find, wireless carriers obsess on raising their average revenue per user, by getting existing customers to spend more.

-- Wireless operations profit margins jumped from last year's 43.6 percent to 47.2 percent.

By contrast, Verizon's $18 billion high-speed fiber optic network got a skeptical eye from analysts. The company says it added over a half million customers in the fourth quarter, but Sanford C. Bernstein & Company analyst Craig Moffet , "What they have to show for it are slightly lower revenue declines than they otherwise would, but even further margin compression." Translation: Compared to FiOS, landlines were a pretty good business to be in.