Verizon Communications said Tuesday that first-quarter revenue increased on strong wireless sales, but saw earnings dip due to merger costs.Net income in the quarter ending March 31 fell 7 percent to US$1.6 billion, or $0.56 per share, from $1.8 billion, or $0.63 per share, in the same quarter last year. The first-quarter earnings reflect fees for special items, including merger costs, of $0.04 per share. Merger integration costs totaled $55 million. Excluding costs, Verizon\u2019s earnings per share were $0.60, edging out the average forecast of analysts polled by Thomson Financial, who expected earnings per share of $0.59. Net revenue soared 25 percent to $22.7 billion from $18.2 billion a year earlier due to its wireless business and the acquisition of MCI, which closed in January. Verizon Wireless posted a 19 percent hike in first-quarter revenue to $8.8 billion. It was the 15th consecutive quarter of double-digit, year-over-year revenue growth.The unit added 1.7 million customers in the first quarter, bringing its total to 53 million. Verizon Wireless is a joint venture with Vodafone Group.In the wireline segment, revenue was up 33 percent to $12.5 billion due in large part to the addition of MCI\u2019s fixed-line business, which serves mostly large corporate customers.Verizon said the integration of MCI is on track. Of the 3,500 job reductions planned this year, more than one-third were achieved in the first quarter. The company aims to reduce operating expenses by $550 million by cutting redundant processes and positions.-John Blau, IDG News ServiceCheck out our CIO News Alerts and Tech Informer pages for more updated news coverage.