The Verizon Wireless unit of Verizon Communications (NYSE: VZ), the No. 2 U.S. carrier, added 1.7 million wireless customers in the third quarter, more than expected, boosting its total to a record 95.7 million.

About half the new growth came from subscribers who activated new iPhones from Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL), the world's most valuable technology company.

The boost leaves Verizon Wireless in second place nationally behind AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), the No. 1 carrier, which reported about 105 million wireless customers in the second quarter. AT&T's expected to report third-quarter numbers on Oct. 23.

Sprint-Nextel, which is No. 3, reported 56 million subscribers in the second quarter. It’s scheduled to report financial results on Oct. 25. On Monday, the Overland Park, Kan., carrier agreed to sell a 70 percent stake to Japan’s SoftBank Corp. (Tokyo: 9984) for $20.1 billion.

Verizon Communications, based in New York, reported third-quarter net income rose 14 percent to $1.59 billion, or 64 cents per share, as revenue increased 4 percent to $29 billion. Revenue for Verizon Wireless, in which Vodafone Corp. (NYSE: VOD) of the UK has a minority stake, rose 7 percent to $19 billion.

In the past 12 months, Verizon Wireless has added 5.2 million accounts.

The carrier also reported activating 3.1 million new iPhones or 400,000 more than in the previous quarter. The number included 650,000 iPhone 5s, which only shipped for nine days in the quarter.

Shares of Verizon Communications rose 3 percent to $46.26, up $1.55 in midday Thursday trading. Vodafone’s U.S. shares rose 38 cents to $28.63.