Wires

UPDATE 2-Verizon beats estimates on postpaid user growth

Neha Malara

(Adds background, details, updates shares)

Oct 25 (Reuters) - Verizon Communications Inc beat Wall Street estimates for third-quarter profit and revenue on Friday, as the largest U.S. wireless carrier by subscribers signed up more mobile phone customers who pay a monthly bill.

The company's strategy of focusing on the core wireless business has often been contrasted with that of AT&T, its next largest competitor, which has invested in media content to grow the company.

Meanwhile, rivals T-Mobile US Inc and Sprint Corp have been locked in a lengthy merger process.

Verizon in the quarter launched four new pricing plans for its unlimited packages starting from $35, in a strong push to add more subscribers.

The company is also preparing to roll out 5G in more than 17 cities by the end of the year, as wireless carriers seek to expand aggressively to dominate a mobile technology that promises movie downloads in a few seconds.

By 2021, the number of 5G connections is forecast to reach between 20 million and 100 million, according to research firm Statista.

In the third quarter, Verizon added 615,000 postpaid customers, above analysts' estimates of 527,000, according to research firm FactSet.

Analysts pay attention to postpaid customers, or those with a recurring bill, because they are more valuable to carriers and tend to remain with the company longer than prepaid customers.

Revenue in Verizon's media unit slipped 2% to $1.8 billion from a year earlier.

Verizon recently sold social media platform Tumblr as part of efforts to revamp the unit, Verizon Media, which also houses Yahoo, HuffPost and TechCrunch.

Net income rose to $5.34 billion, or $1.25 per share, in the third quarter ended Sept. 30 from $5.06 billion, or $1.19 per share, a year earlier.

Excluding items, Verizon earned $1.25 per share, edging past analysts' average estimate of $1.24, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

Total operating revenue rose nearly 1% to $32.89 billion, beating the estimate of $32.75 billion.

The company's shares were marginally higher in premarket trading. (Reporting by Neha Malara in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D'Silva and Sriraj Kalluvila)