updated 7/20/2006 10:46:20 AM ET 2006-07-20T14:46:20

Cingular Wireless LLC, the nation's largest cell phone provider, said Thursday it more than tripled its second-quarter profit on a 7 percent increase in sales.

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The Atlanta-based joint venture of BellSouth Corp. and AT&T Inc. said it earned $540 million for the three months ended June 30, compared to a profit of $147 million for the same period a year ago.

Revenue in the quarter rose to $9.22 billion, compared to $8.61 billion recorded in the same quarter a year ago.

"We continue to make progress in all aspects of our business," Chief Financial Officer Pete Ritcher said during a conference call with investors. "We still have a lot of work left to do and synergies to drive to fruition ... but we have a tremendous amount of heavy work behind us."

The company said it ended the quarter with 57.3 million subscribers, which includes a gain of 1.5 million net subscriber additions in the quarter.

Average monthly revenue per user declined 3.3 percent in the second quarter to $48.84, compared to $50.51 in the same period a year ago. But monthly churn — the rate at which customers switch to other providers — dropped to 1.7 percent, compared to 2.2 percent in the year-ago period.

"We're losing fewer and fewer of our customers to churn," Ritcher said.

However, he said there could be added churn pressure on the company over the next several months as Cingular continues to implement technology changes. Ritcher also said it has taken Cingular longer than expected to realize certain benefits from its 2004 purchase of AT&T Wireless.

For the first six months of the year, Cingular said it earned $894 million, compared to a loss of $93 million in the same period a year ago. Six-month revenue rose 8 percent to $18.20 billion, compared to $16.84 billion recorded in the same period a year ago.

Cingular's name will be phased out with the completion of AT&T's $67 billion acquisition of BellSouth, which is expected to close by the end of the year. Shareholders of Atlanta-based BellSouth and San Antonio-based AT&T will vote on the deal on Friday during special meetings in their respective cities.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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