AT&T Inc posted a quarterly profit slightly ahead of Wall Street expectations but its wireless subscriber growth missed analyst estimates in its final quarter as the exclusive U.S. provider for the Apple Inc iPhone.

AT&T added 400,000 net contract customers in the fourth quarter compared with the average expectation for almost 504,000 from eight analysts contacted by Reuters.

On Tuesday, its biggest rival Verizon Communications reported 872,000 new contract customers.

The No. 2 U.S. mobile operator on Thursday reported a profit of $1.09 billion, or 18 cents per share compared with a profit of $2.7 billion, or 46 cents per share in the same quarter the year before.

Excluding unusual items, AT&T earned 55 cents per share compared with the average analyst estimate for 54 cents a share according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

(Reporting by Sinead Carew; editing by Derek Caney)