Verizon Communications added far more wireless subscribers than expected in the fourth quarter, dispelling any worries that customers would put off signing up until the company's Verizon Wireless venture begins selling Apple Inc's iPhone next month.

Verizon Wireless, Verizon's venture with Vodafone Group Plc, added 872,000 contract customers, compared with an average expectation for more than 646,0000 from eight analysts contacted by Reuters.

Despite slightly weaker-than-expected earnings and revenue, Stifel Nicolaus analyst Christopher King applauded the results, citing television, Internet and wireless growth.

He noted that consumers were still buying phones, even though the introduction of the long-awaited Verizon Wireless iPhone is set for early February.

It was spectacular wireless (subscriber) growth, King said. The expectation of them getting an iPhone appears not to have had an impact.

Verizon was the first of the big U.S. telecommunications providers to report results for the fourth quarter. Its biggest rival, AT&T Inc, is due to report on Thursday.

Mizuho analyst Michael Nelson said Verizon's strong subscriber growth probably meant the company stole customers from rivals such as AT&T and No. 4 U.S. mobile service T-Mobile USA, a unit of Deutsche Telekom.

Verizon said on Tuesday that its profit rose to $4.65 billion, or 93 cents per share, from $2.37 billion, or 22 cents per share, a year earlier.

But excluding one-time items, earnings per share were 54 cents, just below the average estimate of 55 cents from analysts polled by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S/.

Verizon said many analysts had not factored in a 1-cent-per-share charge from changes to its pension accounting announced last Friday.

Revenue fell 2.6 percent to $26.4 billion from the year-earlier quarter before the company sold off rural telephone lines in 14 states. Analysts were expecting $26.48 billion.

The company added 197,000 new FiOS Internet customers. This compared with King's expectation for 190,000. And its 182,000 FiOS TV customer additions beat the analyst's expectation for 175,000.

King also said that while the company's 1.3 percent increase in sales to businesses, governments and other large entities was small, it was a good sign for spending by corporate customers.

Verizon shares were unchanged at $35.24 in trading before the market opened.

(Reporting by Sinead Carew; editing by Derek Caney and Lisa Von Ahn)