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Sprint Nextel was the big loser in the $20bn telecomms contract dished out today by the US government.

AT&T, Verizon Business and Qwest all won a slice of the humongous deal, the biggest telco contract ever. But Sprint was notably excluded from getting to make cash angels in the executive lounge today.

Agency spending is estimated at $20bn but could go as high as $48bn. It replaces less gracefully named FTS2001 contract expiring this year, held by MCI and Sprint Nextel.

The carrier had been the federal government's telecom provider for 18 years. Sprint Nextel was last seen kicking a can down the street, hand in pockets, head drooped.

The new Networx Universal contract runs for 10 years and provides wireless voice, video and data services to 135 federal agency across 191 countries. The U.S. General Services Administration announced the winners of the contract at a press conference in Washington D.C., this morning.

The "x" in Networx shows that someone in the U.S. federal government totally down with those x-treme kidZ these days — what, with their radical 360 sk8board moves, slamming Mountain Dews in their baggy pants while they surf the myspace internets. It's street cred that's been sorely lacking from government contracts these days.

The three companies have assembled consortiums to compete for individual contracts with the 135 agencies.

AT&T's crew: Cingular Wireless, Northrop Grumman, Electronic Data Systems, Global Crossing and SRA International

In Qwest's crib: Alcatel-Lucent, Science Applications International Corp., Akamai Technologies and Bearing Point

Verizon's posse: HP, WilTel Communications, Verizon Wireless, G2 Satellite Solutions, and Comtech Telecommunications.

But Sprint Nextel may not be completely kicked to the curb. On the horizon is the less lucrative portion of the deal; the Networx Enterprise contract for establishing secure, IP and managed network services to the gov'ment. The contract is intended for smaller providers but quoth the wise man, "money is money". Winners of the Network Enterprise contract will be announced in May. ®

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