back to article Cor blimey: Virgin Media pipes 152Mb fibre to 100,000 East Londoners

Virgin Media has announced the largest single expansion of its fibre optic network yet, extending its 152Mb broadband service to 100,000 homes in East London. The area was chosen because it’s close to existing Virgin Media infrastructure. Areas set to receive Virgin's pipes will include Bethnal Green, the Isle of Dogs and …

  1. AndrueC Silver badge
    WTF?

    Virgin Media has announced the largest single expansion of its fibre optic network yet

    I didn't know it had been doing any expansion. Or is this just another speed upgrade?

    1. Ben 47

      It's definitely expansion, and it's something they've been doing for a while now

      http://www.ispreview.co.uk/story/2011/08/08/virgin-media-uk-extend-cable-broadband-network-to-cover-100k-new-homes-in-2011.html

      However previously, I think it was spread around the country, rather than a single area.

      1. Blueman

        Reall???!!!

        I (and about 20 other houses) live a whole 20 yards from the end of a VM cable run right in the middle of an almost entirely cabled city and I've been told there's no chance of them extending the line despite them keep sending lots of glossy brochures about just how wonderful life would be if only I'd sign up!!!

        1. Snowy Silver badge

          Re: Reall???!!!

          Same as down the bottom of our road, right in the middle of the cabled area, an estate of 100+ houses got built about 2 years ago and they have no wired them up yet. They also get lots of glossy brochures about just how wonderful life would be if only I'd sign up!!!

          1. dotdavid

            Re: Reall???!!!

            Same here! Despite already being signed up I also get lots of glossy brochures about just how wonderful life would be if only I'd sign up! ;-)

            1. Captain Scarlet Silver badge
              Flame

              Re: Reall???!!!

              Same here except BT also trolls me >_<

  2. Uncle Ron

    Q from the US

    Speed is one thing (no home user really needs this kind of speed--only a business with dozens or hundreds of users, terminals, cash registers, etc.--really -needs- this right? But the speed doesn't matter at all if there's some sort of Metered Billing for usage. This is the ISP publicly stated plan for consumers in the US. What do ISP's in Blighty charge for high-speed internet service? Capped, uncapped, Metered Usage? And at what speeds? THANKS.

    1. Steven Raith

      Re: Q from the US

      Typically for most basic BB services (IE the really cheap ones) there will be a cap of about 10-20gb, but that's mainly marketed at people who just need basic access to check their email and the weather once a day, etc.

      Unlimited packages don't tend to cost a huge amount more in the grand scheme of things, and are usually throttled to a degree, and have an 'unlimited' (ho ho ho) marketing tag, but are usually throttled/traffic shaped at either more than xgb/day or over certain protocols like bittorrent.

      The only way to get a truly unthrottled system is quite often to pay for a business line - the connection I have with IDNet costs me £25/month (ex vat - so more like £30) (about twice that of consumer 'unlimited' DSL) but has no filtering, no throttling, and very, very low contention - to the extent that my BT client, when getting ISOs etc, often reports as 10MB/sec transfer rate - that is, I'm not having any problems saturating the true bandwidth of the line. You just don't get that on consumer xDSL or cable. it's worth the £30/month for the extra speed I can get from it, as it means I can actually download files from my home storage to a customer site or the office at a decent clip, something you'd struggle to do on consumer xDSL in my (admittadly limited direct) experience.

      Virgin are well known for capping your speeds if you download more than Xgb a day, but I think they're pretty rare in that - most 'enthusiast' DSL that the likes of us would be interested in is typically the traffic shaped or throttled in some way once you hit certain limits. There are not that many ISPs are who are good, fast and don't throttle outside of the business/enterprise space IME.

      HTH - and happy to be corrected by anyone else!

      Steven R

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Q from the US

        "Virgin are well known for capping your speeds if you download more than Xgb a day, "

        I'm a happy 100 Mb/s customer and I've never noticed the throttling. According to their policy on the larger packages (over 30 Mb/s) they only ever throttle users uploading large amounts of data (in excess of 1 Gb per hour at peak times), although torrents/P2P and filesharing via newsgroups can be slowed down during peak times regardless of your usage. As the slowdown is about 50% on filesharing I'd still be getting 50 Mb/s service even if I were throttled, which sounds a lot better than most of the country enjoy at best. And since I don't give a hoot about filesharing and P2P networking it doesn't really matter to me at all.

        Of course, this could all change now they are part of Liberty Global....

      2. PaulR79

        Re: Q from the US

        @Steven Raith

        "to the extent that my BT client, when getting ISOs etc, often reports as 10MB/sec transfer rate - that is, I'm not having any problems saturating the true bandwidth of the line. You just don't get that on consumer xDSL or cable"

        http://www.speedtest.net/my-result/3672242208

        Virgin Media 100Mbps connection and I'd count this as a slower period. It's very region dependent though with some older cable areas not as good as others. I've never had a problem with speed though and regularly get what is advertised although the upload has yet to be upgraded to 10Mb so it's hovering around 6Mb still.

    2. AndrueC Silver badge

      Re: Q from the US

      What do ISP's in Blighty charge for high-speed internet service? Capped, uncapped, Metered Usage? And at what speeds? THANKS.

      It varies. One big difference here is that our national telco was forced to open up its local loop many years ago. It fully supports LLU and it also provides wholesale access for both telephony and internet. In theory it even supports SLU but no-one much likes the pricing on that so it's never really taken off.

      Then there's Virgin Media which this article relates to. They own and operate a cable network that covers slightly more than half the country. They've never gained dominance (not even in the areas where they provide a service) so don't have to share the network with anyone.

      There's also a small historical oddity KCOM which operates the telephone lines around a town in the North East.

      What this all means is that roughly half the country has access to cable (up to 152Mb/s) and everywhere has xDSL of some variety(*). The choices there being:

      * ADSL (up 8Mb/s depending on line length) - This is being phased out and now only exists on the smallest exchanges.

      * ADSL2+ (up to 24Mb/s) - Available on nearly every exchange.

      * VDSL (up to 80Mb/s depending on distance to cabinet. Most people seem to be getting at least 40Mb/s) - Currently being rolled out and available to approximately 80% of the population at the moment. Slated to hit 95% within a couple of years.

      Almost no-one is completely without a broadband service of any kind these days but some remote properties might be limping by on 512Mb/s ADSL.

      Service levels:

      * VM seem to like running their network hot (capacity barely keeping pace with user demands) so suffers from jitter.

      * xDSL rarely has local loop capacity issues but the wide choice of ISPs allows for quite a bit of market differentiation in pricing, throughput, allowances and customer service.

      As for pricing:

      http://www.uswitch.com/broadband/ (other comparison sites exist).

      Note that for most of the UK population any ISP can be used. The only exceptions as noted above are that not everyone has VM Cable and there's one town in the North East (Kingston Upon Hull) who only have KCOM.

      A few areas have true FTTP or FTTB but not many at the moment. However anyone with deep enough pockets can get fibre laid to their property.

      (*)Yes they overlap. Pretty much every property in the country has a copper line feeding it so has access to xDSL if it wants it. Intriguingly a lot of properties that could have a cable service have preferred to stick with copper. One may well wonder why.

      1. gotes

        Re: Q from the US

        Intriguingly a lot of properties that could have a cable service have preferred to stick with copper. One may well wonder why.

        I am one of these oddities. The reasoning may be obscure, but I refuse to use Virgin Media because of the utterly appalling customer service I experienced with Cable & Wireless and NTL, which eventually became VM. I am happy enough trundling along with my copper ADSL knowing my connection won't be throttled, I can get through to customer service, and they won't treat me like a moron.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Q from the US

          Cable and wireless became vodafone, not VM, afaik.

          1. xpz393

            Re: Q from the US

            Almost...

            In the late-nineties, Cable & Wireless did indeed own the consumer cable infrastructure in Derby at least, and I can only presume some other areas too. A few years later, C&W (along with some other cable operatores) sold their consumer cable to NTL, which in turn became VirginMedia in 2007.

            C&W continued to operate 'business only' voice and data lines for many years before being recently(ish) being bought-out by Vodafone.

      2. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

        Re: Q from the US

        Quote

        Intriguingly a lot of properties that could have a cable service have preferred to stick with copper. One may well wonder why.

        Why?

        Around here every house is connected to an ancient VM cable. During the evenings the average download speed is 2-4Mbits.

        Why on earth should I give up my 80/10Mbits FTTC connection for some infrastructure that is clearly well past its sell by date.

        The FTTC Cabinet is 100ft from my front door and so far only 4 other residents have signed up for it (info from BT Opernreach engineer who fixed a problem in the copper bit of my link a month or so bacl).

        This means that each of us has our own fibre connection back to the exchange. Thankfully most of my neighbors are hooked on VM or failing that Sky so I won't have to worry about much contention for the forseeable future.

        My friends in the use are on the whole stuck with Comcast. No choice at all. We can count ourselves very lucky on this side of the pond (even allowing for the odd VM, Sky, TT and BT cocckups).

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Q from the US

        For anyone interested, to get 250Mb of internet bandwidth, unrestricted in both directions, via fibre from Vodsphone (other suppliers do exist) , cost is about £450/month. Business only. They suppky the fibre install and managed NT.

        I dont work for them, but this is what it cost our firm, from 2 years back.

    3. Horridbloke

      Re: Q from the US

      "no home user really needs this kind of speed"...

      I suppose it depends on ones definition of "need" but I recently bought and installed the new Wolfenstein game via Steam and that was a 40 or 50 gigabyte download - an inconceivable figure not so long ago. That wasn't too painful on our 40Mb connection but these things just keep getting bigger.

      Weirdly enough we're on Virgin and I'm pretty sure our connection has been throttled to 40Mb - our peak download speeds were much faster when we got connected a year back.

    4. John Delaney

      Re: Q from the US

      I live in the only area of the UK that isn't covered by British Telecom (Hull) which means that, with the exception of a few small wireless backhaul providers, we only have one ISP to choose from - Karoo. This makes phone and broadband in the Hull region amongst the most expensive in the country.

      I pay £50 a month for my unlimited fibre bundle which includes 100 Mbps FTTH, line rental, unlimited local and national calls, free calls to special numbers like 0845 and 0870, and 3 hours of calls to mobiles. My actual download speed varies between 100-120 Mbps, i.e. I often get slightly faster than the advertised speed (I could have 350 Mbps if I were prepared to pay £100/month for it).

      We download a lot of stuff in HD so in an average month we get through 300-400 GB of data, and we've never had a warning letter or anything.

    5. John65

      Re: Q from the US

      I'm lucky to have Fibre to the Home. I'm on the base Internet plan 50Mb down and 30Mb up with no usage/download cap, which works very well for me as I like to play different Linux distros.

      http://www.bellaliant.net/fibreop-internet

      Gotta say, it's a great service :)

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Q from the US

      Uncle Ron: You are clearly not in the "streaming 7 channels of 4K pr0n at the same time" club. Without this bandwidth, how else am I to get my daily fix?

      ;)

    7. Gannettt

      Re: Q from the US

      I moved from the UK to the US about 6 years ago, and reading these descriptions of the current UK internet provisions and comparing it to what I'm getting in the US now it quite depressing.

      When I left the UK, I was with VM and paid about £50 a month for their 20Mb service, and apart from some minor slowdowns in the early evening, it was fine. I see the prices have come down and the speeds have increased considerably since then. Right now, i'm with AT&T's UVerse, and pay the equivalent of £40 per month for 12Mbit, admittedly with no slowdowns at peak periods. if we paid the dizzying amount of £65 per month, we could bump this up to 24Mbit!

      Like the NHS, nice beer and cheese that tastes of something, value for money internet service is something I sorely miss living out here!

  3. This post has been deleted by its author

  4. pear

    Hipsters set to consume...

    More memes than their brains can handle.

  5. Pete 2 Silver badge

    Never mind the bandwith

    > its 152Mb broadband service

    I wonder how many customers on this service are completely unaware that no matter how often they upgrade, their internet speed will still be limited by their so-much-slower Wifi connection?

    1. r00ty

      Re: Never mind the bandwith

      I've found it really depends on the router, and surrounding use of the channels.

      When I was recently in Romania, the connection available was a 100Mbit FTTB connection.. That is 100Mbit in both directions (for a ridiculously low price, 1Gbit available for not much more). The wifi on the Linksys router (dual band 2.4/5Ghz, max 300Mbit/s) seemed to hold speeds back to around 35Mbit/s in both directions. I spent some time working with the settings to try and improve the speeds. I had no luck. When I connected by wired, while I never actually got 100Mbit.. It did go up to around 55 down, 45 up. So, for sure wifi was limiting matters.

      Here in the UK I have FTTC 80/20. I'm using a Fritzbox 3390 (also dual band), which many reviews said had bad wifi.. This wifi manages the speeds fine (http://www.speedtest.net/result/3673784945.png taken just now).

      So, as usual YMMV.

      Yes, probably most people don't know the limitations of Wifi though.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Never mind the bandwith

      BT Home Hub5 here, connected to Cisco WUMC710 AC-WiFi network bridge, nice stable 877Mbps wirelessly across my LAN. An increase of about ten on what my power line adaptors could manage.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Virgin, the kings of bandwidth management.

    For years, they have been apply throttling services and applying traffic management rules. I don't care what speed they claim they run at, the sites you would want a fast connection, they will be applying a dumb throttle on it.

  7. PapaD

    Well, you can get a TV, telephone and 152mb broadband package from Virgin Media for approx £60 a month - uncapped, unmetered.

    So, about $100 US

  8. Simon Rockman

    Virgin is not quite uncapped

    I had a rogue bitcoin miner that was for some reason I never got to the bottom of, hammering the upload bandwidth and Virgin capped me.

    I even had an engineer call.

    The email discussions got quite technical and I was promised a copy of the capping guidelines but this never arrived. I upgraded to new mining hardware and the problem has gone away.

    This was all as a regular £60+ a month customer on the 120Mb package, not as a writer on The Reg.

    Simon

    1. Ben 47

      Re: Virgin is not quite uncapped

      Full details on what management in place is at www.virginmedia.com/traffic including specific details of the upload trigger thresholds

  9. Marvin O'Gravel Balloon Face

    Another happy VM customer, but it would be really great if the upload speed was even a quarter as fast as the download speed.

    1. frank ly Silver badge

      You're not supposed to create, you're supposed to consume. Sit back and vegetate.

    2. AndrueC Silver badge

      it would be really great if the upload speed was even a quarter as fast as the download speed.

      Sadly the architecture of cable networks imposes limitations. Because several properties are sharing a single cable something has to prevent collisions (put simply something has to stop you and your neighbour both trying to send a packet at the same time). DOCSIS3.0 helped quite a lot but it's still an uphill struggle. xDSL doesn't have this particular limitation because everyone has a dedicated cable - in theory(*) an xDSL modem can use any frequency it wants for whatever purpose it wants whenever it wants.

      I think it's fair to say that xDSL is topologically more suited to bi-directional networking than cable (no surprise - given the original intent of cable). But later versions of DOCSIS have done a helluva lot to workaround the limitations of the basic architecture. There may be more to come and the guys doing the research are well aware that upload speed is important.

      (*)In practice it can't. Frequency plans exist to minimise interference between cables in the same bundle and the DSLAM will almost certainly only support particular up or downstream rates.

  10. clanger9

    Anyone tried aaisp.net?

    aaisp.net seem to offer no-contract unthrottled IPv6 internet (but with 100GB cap). Looks more like a business offering than consumer-grade, but they do offer a "home" package.

    Just wondering, 'cos I'm getting fed up with my consumer-grade ISP who seems to have decided what I *really* need is to buy TV services from them. Hint: I don't, so go away and stop asking.

    1. fridaynightsmoke
      Go

      Re: Anyone tried aaisp.net?

      Yes, they're quite good.

      80Mbps FTTC comes to £40/mo, so a little more than from some ISPs, but everything works exactly as it's supposed to, you've got access to all manner of technical stats and tests, and you're dealing with a company that is vocally opposed to 'content filtering' and other governmental misadventures.

      Nothing so far has gone wrong with my connection, but if it ever did I am fully confident they would sort it out whilst telling me exactly what's going on.

      1. Brad Ackerman
        Linux

        Re: Anyone tried aaisp.net?

        Also a company that has implemented the Shibboleet protocol. Not that it's difficult when you insist on hiring people who actually know something about networks.

    2. r00ty

      Re: Anyone tried aaisp.net?

      I looked at A&A. But, the cap can be a problem. I watch quite some netflix and use Sky on demand quite a bit, not to mention do a lot of work from home over VPN. So, some months I could easily go over any cap, while other months use very little. It depends on too many factors. So, I had to find something else.

      In the end, I moved my existing Zen connection from my old address. Which is around £30 per month for unlimited 80/20 FTTC. They also have excellent technical support (I had an issue with impulse noise on standard ADSL before I moved to fibre and they not only understood the problem I was describing, but was able to enable the interleaving and FEC needed to combat it). So, all in all, they're a good choice in my opinion.

      I used to be on BE, and they were also excellent value for money. Until Sky got their hands on them of course.

      The strange situation with Zen having a usage cap AND higher price on ADSL but not on FTTC is an odd one for sure though.

    3. Vic

      Re: Anyone tried aaisp.net?

      I'm with them.

      I only switched a couple of weeks ago, but so far, so good...

      Their tech support has been perfect - I had a few questions to ask them before I signed up, and they took everything in their stride.

      Vic.

  11. Martin
    Unhappy

    152M? HA!

    I'm on a 120M connection with VM. I get not far from 120M at 8:00 am on a Sunday morning, here in NW London. But at 8:00 in the evening, due to contention, I get 20M if I'm lucky - as every other house in the street also has Virgin Media.

    So if I'm increased to 152M, I reckon I might sneak up to 25M...whoo-hoo!

  12. Slx

    I'm just curious, why is Virgin Media offering 152 Mbit/s when other cable operators in the Liberty stable like UPC in Ireland are offering 200Mbit/s (uncapped) for residential and 250Mbit/s for small business at the moment using EuroDOCSIS 3

    I have their 200Mbit/s package at home and it's hitting the advertised speed (and a bit beyond) very reliably.

    200Mbit/s seems to be the current top tier package on most of the continental UPC companies and on the likes of Numericable in France.

    Do Virgin have some unusual implementation of DOCSIS or some kind of cable bandwidth restriction ?

    1. lawndart

      says:

      It could be all the old DOCSIS 1.0/1.1 modems still in use which are cluttering up the network; I recall reading they generate more noise than the later versions.

      We are due to be upgraded by VM to 50Mbit/s in October. I called "Customer Services" in March asking whether I could have a new modem as I am still running my fourteen year old Motorola Surfboard SB4100 (DOCSIS 1.0) and wouldn't they prefer such old kit off their network?

      They still wanted me to pay £20 for the privilege so I still have it, although it won't ever reach 50Mbit/s when the higher speed kicks in.

      1. John 78

        Re: says:

        I had a Motorola Surfboard SB3100 which I had to buy myself (This was in the early days).

        When they upgraded the speeds above 10Mbs and the SB3100 couldn't obtain the new speeds (The ethernet was only 10Mbs), they sent me a free modem and wireless router.

        Over the years, I have had only a few hours of downtime overall, but I must admit I don't use their DNS.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Be Broadband

    Miss them. SKy bought them out. Bastards.

    However, I now get 12mbs for £8 a month with no caps, throttling, etc. I know this, because just as with Be, I hammer the cunt off of my broadband every single waking day. It never stops downloading. Ever.

    God Bless TPB.

    So I really can't see the point of moving anywhere as I'll pay more and inevitably hit some form of cap.

    I checked AAISP.net and the line test thing said:

    TT availability checker response

    Estimated standard ADSL download speed 4,616kb/s to 11,109kb/s.

    Estimated Annex-M speed 1,400kb/s Up, and 6,184kb/s down.

    Apparently the exchange where I live is just over two miles away and has this:

    Featured Products

    Downstream Line Rate(Mbps)

    Upstream Line Rate(Mbps)

    Downstream Range(Mbps)

    Availability Date

    WBC ADSL 2+ Up to 8 -- 7 to 8.5 Available

    WBC ADSL 2+ Annex M Up to 8 Up to 1 7 to 8.5 Available

    ADSL Max Up to 8 -- 7 to 8 Available

    WBC Fixed Rate 2 -- -- Available

    Fixed Rate 2 -- -- Available

    Other Offerings

    Copper Multicast -- -- -- Available

    So I guess I'll never get above the 12mbps I currently get now. Is that right?

  14. awood-something_or_another

    Fiber means Gig. I get 120 with Coax. Virgin Galactic could get to space faster than a 152Mbit packet.

  15. David Thorn

    Ironically I live on Cable Street, E1 and aren't covered by Virgin Media yet nor seem to be in the expansion.

  16. Clockworkseer

    Depens on how yu define choice.

    I stick with Virgin for a couple of reasons. Crap phone lines in my building, and no prospect of FTTC for our city center for the forseeable future, for reasons including (but probably not limited to) the fact they had this shiny idea for a Digital Region, which meant two fibre players in the area already. Guess what, the Digital Region thing went belly up, so no prospect of getting new cabs from there (and its worse for some other poor buggers, they got fttc from Origin as part of it, but when the DR went tits up, tey have to move back to the regular bt cabs, and since BT didn't FTTC up some areas due to the DR, they get shunted back onto ADSL (with the resulting speed hit.)

    In my case though, it comes down to BT/other ADSL or virgin. Unstable 1-3mb vs 152mb. That's a "choice."

  17. James 100

    "Intriguingly a lot of properties that could have a cable service have preferred to stick with copper. One may well wonder why."

    In fact everyone on that cable service is also stuck with copper, since that's what the coaxial cable in question is made of!

    Having used both, I found FTTC much better in actual use than Virgin's DOCSIS. Both are copper as far as a green street cabinet, then fibre from that point on - but FTTC gives much more consistent throughput, particularly for upload.

    Since someone asked earlier, I'm with aaisp.net (Andrews & Arnold), and extremely happy with them. I did have a fault - which we eventually traced to a bad backbone switch port within BT's core network. Finding and fixing that required SIX Openreach visits to do line tests, before BT Wholesale would escalate the matter to BT TSOps and on to Adhara (the backbone management team at Adastral Park). Any other ISP would have given up; A&A didn't bat an eyelid, just kept pushing harder and harder in different bits of BT until the fault was fixed. They don't cut corners, so they aren't cheap - but they will do whatever it takes to get issues fixed. Bandwidth options for Home::1 users are 100, 200 or 300 Gb per month (£10 difference between each), which will be fine for virtually anyone. (If you use over 300 Gb per month on the BT backbone, you'll be costing your ISP an absolute fortune.)

    1. Uncle Ron

      Copper

      When most people use the term "copper" they mean twisted pair copper wire, not coaxial cable. The difference between twisted pair copper wire and glass fiber is substantial. Between coax and fiber, not so much. One uses electrons and one uses photons. Each (coax and fiber) can shoot 100's of g'bits/second, copper wire cannot.

      Huh?

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    When I saw the headline my first thought was "why isn't it 1Gb". Yes, 152Mb is a good speed for the UK but realistically that's only twice what you'll get on a good FTTC service. My hope is that the infrastructure they have put in to the property is able to handle 1Gb it's just limited by what the onward infrastructure can handle.

    I think the ISPs fear that giving people a really fast connection will cause them to download more. That's probably true up to a point but there is a limit. If my connection went from it's current 70Mb to 1000Mb I can't see myself downloading any more as I'm already at the point where I just download whatever I want.

  19. IHateWearingATie

    Sad but true

    One reason I've stuck with Virgin Media is the telephone extensions around the house are wired into the Virgin telephone socket and I can't be bothered to rewire everything.

    Luckily the service is pretty good where I live, and the BT cabinet is a little way away, so I suspect FTTC wouldn't get me more than 30-40Mbit anyway.

  20. Uncle Ron

    THANK YOU

    The responses I got to "Q from the US" are -very- much appreciated. I am truly grateful to Reg readers for the time and effort. THANK YOU.

    I hope many in the US have read these responses and realize, though not a perfect happy utopia, internet service, in general, in the UK is FAR superior and cheaper and more competitive than almost ANYTHING offered to the consumer in the US.

    US legislators and regulators: Read these responses carefully. You will not be able to keep the generally crappy, corrupt, monopoly situation in the US a secret much longer. US providers have raised "shaping" and "artificial scarcity" to a high art.

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