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For Verizon, network quality means growth keeps chugging along

The company added 1.3 million net new customers in the third quarter as it continues to tout its network superiority. Much of its growth stems from subscribers picking up tablets.

Verizon faces increasing competition from its rivals. Verizon

Do you want reliable wireless service or do you want cheap service?

That's long been Verizon's justification to customers for why it charges a premium over its rivals. It's also a question being asked more often as rivals drop their prices and promise better service.

Well, coverage continues to win out for Verizon.

The nation's largest wireless carrier on Tuesday reported adding 1.3 million net new customers in the third quarter, including 430,000 phone subscribers.

The numbers suggest that customers are still hanging onto their Verizon phones even as competitors step up their games. The more heated rivalry has led to lower prices and more attractive offerings for consumers.

Verizon has long been considered the king of reliable coverage, although its edge has narrowed in recent years. AT&T's service is just a step behind, and T-Mobile claims the fastest data connections. That has pushed Verizon to work harder and be louder about the strength of its network.

Verizon's results come after a summer in which two of its rivals were eager to show that consumers were flocking to their services. In September, T-Mobile CEO John Legere teased a strong third quarter by disclosing that his company had added 2.1 million net new customers. Later that month, AT&T said it signed up more than 2 million customers.

While numbers for Verizon don't look as strong as those of its rival, the company boasted a low turnover rate of 0.93 percent, indicating that its existing base remains loyal to the company. As with previous quarters, much of its growth stemmed from subscribers picking up tablets: It added 818,000 such new customers in the period.

The quarter also saw Verizon shaking up the status quo. The company in August said it was eliminating its long-held practice of signing consumers up to two-year service contracts in exchange for smartphone subsidies. Instead, consumers would see a lower monthly fee in exchange for paying for their smartphone either outright or in monthly installments.

Earlier this month, Verizon said it would impose a $20 increase on customers still on its unlimited data plan, an option it removed for new subscribers four years ago.

The New York telecommunications provider posted a quarterly profit of $4.04 billion, or 99 cents a share, compared with the year-ago level of $3.7 billion, or 89 cents a share. Its adjusted earnings of $1.04 a share, which exclude one-time financial items, topped Wall Street's forecast of $1.02 a share.

Verizon shares rose 2 percent to $45.38 in premarket trading.