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LightSquared Wants To Share Weather-Balloon Frequencies for LTE 141

Posted by timothy
from the everything's-up-in-the-air dept.
IDG News Service reports (as carried by PC World) that LightSquared, having lost some of the spectrum they'd hoped to use for a nationwide LTE network because of worries it would interfere with GPS service, has a new plan: to use some of the spectrum currently reserved by the federal government for uses like weather-balloon communications. From the article: "The new plan would give the carrier 30MHz of frequencies on which to operate the LTE network. That's 10MHz less than it had wanted but still comparable to the amount of spectrum Verizon Wireless and AT&T are using for their LTE systems, which in most areas use just 20MHz. Wireless network speeds are determined partly by how much spectrum the network uses, so LightSquared might be able to deliver a competitive service for its planned coverage area of 260 million U.S. residents."
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LightSquared Wants To Share Weather-Balloon Frequencies for LTE

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  • Some people (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mindwhip (894744) on Sunday September 30, 2012 @03:14PM (#41508087)

    Just don't know when to fold.

  • by gman003 (1693318) on Sunday September 30, 2012 @03:25PM (#41508157)

    Second verse, same as the first. LightSquared just doesn't want to pay for spectrum. First they tried muscling in on satellite frequencies, claiming to the FCC that they'd primarily be satellite-based while telling everyone else that they'd be terrestrial only. And of course, they got caught because pretty much *any* terrestrial-strength broadcast is going to swamp out any satellite-based stuff on the same frequencies.

    So now they're trying it again, trying to squeeze in on some pre-established frequencies. I don't claim to know any technical details of weather-balloon communication, but I do know this: if it *were* possible to safely share those frequencies with LTE-like communications, it would likely have been done already. Given their prior track record, LS is going to have to argue pretty effectively to convince me.

    Look, LightSquared. You should've just paid for actual spectrum you could use before. You acted like a cheap bastard and tried to use the wrong parts because it was cheaper, and then you cried when it didn't work.

    • by Nethead (1563)

      Reminds me of those trying to get the DOD, et al to give up their legacy IPv4 space, so they can make money, of course.

      • Although I don't have much respect for Lightsquared, they do bring up an interesting issue - making sure that the available radio frequency spectrum is being used for the 'best' purposes. Of course, 'best' as defined by Lightsquared is what makes money for them, but it could be argued that given advancements in radiotechnology and lessening importance of weather balloons, this switch might be advantageous to society at large.

        I'd feel better in the FCC agreed and auctioned the spectrum rather that give it t

        • by DarthBart (640519) on Sunday September 30, 2012 @04:13PM (#41508389)

          It'll be a long while before something will "lessen the importance of weather balloons". Unless you can figure out a way to measure air pressure, humidity, temperature, and wind direction from 0-70k ft regularly without launching balloons or dropsondes, they'll be needed. And if you can figure out a way to do it, the folks who fly the Hurricane Hunter aircraft would like a word with you so they can stop flying in and around tropical cyclones.

        • As a commercial pilot, I can tell you the balloons are VERY much in use and valuable right now. There is no "lessening" going on!
      • by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968@@@gmail...com> on Sunday September 30, 2012 @04:14PM (#41508395) Journal

        Uhhh...BAD analogy friend, because if the DoD is sitting on a class A and only using a couple of thousand addresses you could redistribute all of their unused ones and not change a single thing about how they work whereas with their first idea Lightsquared bought MUCH cheaper than normal priced communication frequencies because it was SAT ONLY and thus cheaper because you had to pay 100s of millions for the bird and launch, only Lightsquared didn't want to actually USE them for sats, they want to use them on the ground which would wipe out those that had already put up their sats" by overpowering their signals.

        Now here we see them again, wanting to pay little to nothing for a band ALREADY IN USE by balloons and weather sats which would again lose their ability to communicate while Lightsquared makes out like a bandit on their new franchise. With those sitting on millions of IP addresses redistributing the ones they aren't using while leaving them...ohh lets say 10,000+ extras in case they have huge growth down the line, would not affect what they are doing now one little bit, Lightsquared would royally fuck over the ones that paid to actually use that bandwidth correctly, only for them to again make out like bandits by getting the spectrum at fire sale prices.

        Please die already Lightsquared, nobody wants you, you're just trying to fuck people for your own gain, you're another VC funded leech on the ass of society and you needed to be burned off and disposed of. Either get your VC cronies to cough up the funds to buy spectrum legitimately, which of course they won't because the whole way they planned to make mad monies was by getting spectrum at fire sale prices instead of paying fair market value, or go the fuck away.

        • if the DoD is sitting on a class A and only using a couple of thousand addresses you could redistribute all of their unused ones and not change a single thing about how they work

          So, you already know for a fact that they're not using a couple of thousand address spread across their entire /8? What if they're using 7.1.1.1, 7.2.1.1, etc? That would only be 256 addresses, but would be a non-trivial change to their internal routing.

          Get over it & deploy IPv6. I'm sick of hearing ANY defense of the idea of re-allocating /8's.

          • by hairyfeet (841228)

            Then DOUBLE the amount you pay for broadband and I'M sick of hearing anybody bitch about the costs. Sounds fair? Because thanks to the lowballing of the entire IT industry for the past decade there are not enough trained techs to do the jobs that switching to a national IPV6 would require. Hell call ANY regional carrier and ask about their IPV6 rollout plans, hell ask the larger ones like AT&T, Time Warner, Cox, what you'll get is a bunch of blank stares because they do not have the people and thus have

            • Then DOUBLE the amount you pay for broadband and I'M sick of hearing anybody bitch about the costs.

              Done that. I'm on Comcast Business Class for my home. It isn't like this is the cheapest option, but they actually have techs that I can call and SOME of them can help me.

              Hell call ANY regional carrier and ask about their IPV6 rollout plans

              Comcast, evil though they may be, has one, and I'm on IPv6 now

              The industry simply doesn't have enough trained techs with IPV6 knowledge and experience

              We agree. This won't change until we see more adoption of it by ISPs. The techs need to start using it at home so they can use it at work.

              I could go on, but my main point is that r

              • by hairyfeet (841228)

                I think we agree but see different ways of fixing the problem. you think the ISPs should just start rolling it out which will give more people training, I don't think it will because they'll be too busy screening the calls from pissed off customers with broken connections. I think the /8s should be re-allocated but THEN the government should put timetables with SEVERE penalties upon the ISPs, block ALL sales of equipment that isn't IPV6 ready, and maybe even have an incentive program like we did where peopl

    • by godel_56 (1287256)

      Look, LightSquared. You should've just paid for actual spectrum you could use before. You acted like a cheap bastard and tried to use the wrong parts because it was cheaper, and then you cried when it didn't work.

      You don't have to pay for spectrum, just pay for congressmen. It's much cheaper and more effective.

      I'll bet that's what LightSquared are doing right now, behind the scenes.

      • by jd2112 (1535857)

        Look, LightSquared. You should've just paid for actual spectrum you could use before. You acted like a cheap bastard and tried to use the wrong parts because it was cheaper, and then you cried when it didn't work.

        You don't have to pay for spectrum, just pay for congressmen. It's much cheaper and more effective.

        I'll bet that's what LightSquared are doing right now, behind the scenes.

        At&T and Verizon beat you to it. There're isn't much if any spectrum left.

      • They thought owning a white house was enough. Too bad for them.

    • Eh? They bought spectrum but were not allowed to use it for interference with neighboring spectrum...

      http://www.forbes.com/sites/danielfisher/2011/12/21/falcones-lightsquared-faces-enemies-on-all-sides/ [forbes.com]

      He thought he’d cleared the last hurdle standing between him and the trade of his life in January 2011, when the FCC granted LightSquared permission to operate a combined cellular/satellite communications network in the so-called L-band, adjacent to the frequencies GPS uses. That theoretically made Falcone’s 56 megahertz of radio spectrum, purchased for about $2 billion in a series of transactions a few years ago....

      /em mine

      • Ah never mind -- I missed your point, sorry -- you are saying they are playing a two-faced game. They very well may be.

    • Second verse, same as the first. LightSquared just doesn't want to pay for spectrum. First they tried muscling in on satellite frequencies, claiming to the FCC that they'd primarily be satellite-based while telling everyone else that they'd be terrestrial only. And of course, they got caught because pretty much *any* terrestrial-strength broadcast is going to swamp out any satellite-based stuff on the same frequencies.

      IIRC, LightSquared wanted to use spectrum adjacent to satellite GPS frequencies (e.g. they wanted to use channel 2 and GPS was using channel 3). This should have been fine. But, because most GPS receivers are so cheap/poorly designed/non-conforming they are susceptible to cross-channel interference. It was the GPS manufacturers that messed up. But, because there are already a host of non-conforming GPS units in the field, the FCC, as a practical matter said [in effect], you can't do this because of curr

      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        We've been over this 100 times every time this comes up.
        The spectrum they licensed was intended for satellite use only.
        They wanted to use it for terrestrial broadcast.
        The neighboring spectrum was also allocated with satellite use in mind.

        You aren't allowed to build a factory in a residential area either.

      • by gman003 (1693318)

        No, that entire block is allocated to satellite use. GPS uses one of those channels, but all the rest are used (or designated to be used) by satellites. Using any of them at terrestrial power levels would basically cause problems for *any* satellite communications in that range.

        The whole "cheap GPS receivers" response is just more LightSquared PR bullshit. It would take an absurdly good design to filter out a signal that is a) only a few MHz away, b) is being pumped out far closer, and c) is being pumped ou

        • No, that entire block is allocated to satellite use. GPS uses one of those channels, but all the rest are used (or designated to be used) by satellites. Using any of them at terrestrial power levels would basically cause problems for *any* satellite communications in that range.

          The whole "cheap GPS receivers" response is just more LightSquared PR bullshit. It would take an absurdly good design to filter out a signal that is a) only a few MHz away, b) is being pumped out far closer, and c) is being pumped out orders of magnitude higher than any satellite can manage.

          Uh, try reading the Forbes article cited by another commenter (I had read it back in the day, and just reread it now, amongst others).

          The filter isn't all that difficult, regardless of power level. The GPS receivers are deliberately trying to receive out-of-band spectrum that was not licensed to them to compensate for their cheapness. Even Garmin and Trimble knew there were problems with their equipment and had been cautioning investors about the problem since 2001 (before LightSquared).

          Also, the FCC

          • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 30, 2012 @08:14PM (#41509703)

            The filter isn't all that difficult, regardless of power level.

            Uh, you do realize that the GPS signal is already below the thermal noise threshold, right? Furthermore, you do realize that, due to pesky physics, any filter reduces the passthrough signal? No doubt you also realize that, due to pesky physics, the billion-times-stronger-signal LS ground stations would have harmonics dissipating energy in the GPS bands?

            The filter isn't all that difficult, regardless of power level. The GPS receivers are deliberately trying to receive out-of-band spectrum that was not licensed to them to compensate for their cheapness. Even Garmin and Trimble knew there were problems with their equipment and had been cautioning investors about the problem since 2001 (before LightSquared).

            Damn straight. It was a conspiracy to put LS out of business; a conspiracy so vast and intricate that it started a decade before the innocent, virtuous underdog LS demanded the modification of the terms under which they purchased their spectrum license. Besides, everyone knows that you get a better quality of signal if your receiver deliberately receives on other bands. Occam would be proud of your incisive analysis of the situation.

            Or, perhaps GPS manufacturers didn't put tighter bandpass filters on their receivers because those filters would further attenuate the GPS signal that is already below the noise floor. Just a thought. Nevermind, the conspiracy makes more sense.

            If the FCC had been more awake, it might have stopped this after $50M down the drain instead of $4B. That's what Congress wants to know [and I do, too].

            If only a nanny government would have protected them from their stupidity and lack of undergraduate RF communication theory, they would have saved money!

            No, this was the correct outcome: the FCC raised an eyebrow when LS claimed they could make this work (I mean, this doesn't require a PhD in RF to understand there's probably no way this would end in success), but allowed LS to try anyway after they insisted they wanted to do so. Predictably, LS failed to achieve the standard.

            I suppose you would prefer a government that prevents possible failure by restricting everything to known, proven approaches, but I don't. The freedom to fail is fundamental.

            It seems fair to give LightSquared some alternate spectrum that they can use to compensate them for the $2B lost on the spectrum that they already paid for.

            No, that would not be fair. LightSquared thought they could pull a fast one on the laws of physics by acquiring spectrum with the deliberate, ulterior intent to repurpose it for terrestrial broadcast. There's a reason they obtained the spectrum so cheaply: it can't be used by billion-times-stronger-than-GPS terrestrial broadcast stations without interfering. Had they chosen more appropriate spectrum then this issue would be moot. None of the major carriers attempted to do what LS did because the major carriers aren't retarded like LS is.

            If a house flipper were to buy an already-condemned house for $50 and then the government fails to rescind the condemnation after they haphazardly attempt to shore up the roof with $10 worth of rotten 2x4's, perhaps you believe the poor house flipper has been wronged. Perhaps, in your mind, they should seek redress from the government for not protecting them from my own stupidity and therefore they should be entitled to receive a different, uncondemned house for free from the government.

            BTW, LS already laid off their technical staff. At this point it's likely that all they have left are execs and a legal department whose job it is to rent-seek. They are going to be this decade's SCO.

          • by Agripa (139780)

            Uh, try reading the Forbes article cited by another commenter (I had read it back in the day, and just reread it now, amongst others).

            LightSquared has been advertising some magical RF filter without identifying the price, power required, or form factor. If they have a working model, where is a picture of it? Has anybody independently measured or duplicated its performance?

            The filter isn't all that difficult, regardless of power level. The GPS receivers are deliberately trying to receive out-of-band spectr

          • by thrich81 (1357561)

            Forbes -- there's a an unbiased source for you. Think about it -- a rich, connected guy figures out a scheme to get even richer by polluting a resource used by everyone else (the GPS assigned radio band) -- that's pretty much the business model of all of Forbes's target audience. And as far as LightSquared's $3-4B investment, they could have saved it all by asking some real engineers and physicists if they could pull this off. It's not the FCC's fault if all they listened to was bullshit artists who told

            • Forbes -- there's a an unbiased source for you.

              The article seems to be well balanced and heaped its share of criticism on LS and Falcone in particular [the SEC investigation].

              Think about it -- a rich, connected guy figures out a scheme

              The article implies he bought/strong armed his way into society--which hardly makes him connected.

              to get even richer by

              Considering that LS would have been able to provide data plans that were 8X cheaper than conventional wireless, we would all have gotten richer [by being charged less].

              polluting a resource used by everyone else (the GPS assigned radio band)

              LS would not have polluted the GPS band itself. It was only because inexpensive GPS manufacturers were relying on rec

      • by bws111 (1216812)

        Your ham analogy is apt, yet you completely miss the point.

        If you design a receiver using all the information that is known, you can't be faulted for having a 'cheap/poorly designed/non-conforming' device. In the TV/ham case, that would mean that the TV is designed knowing that the amateur bands are there, and the power levels that may be used in those bands. If you don't design your device to reject those frequencies at those power levels, you have made a poor device. In that case, you will indeed be

        • Your ham analogy is apt, yet you completely miss the point.

          I was a ham at one point ... BTW, I did another reply that has additional info/talking points. It might be worth a look (http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=3154397&cid=41519923) because I'll try not to repeat too much of it here, but much of what I say will assume you're familar with it. However, I've dug up some additional detail/info that I'll add here.

          If you design a receiver using all the information that is known, you can't be faulted for having a 'cheap/poorly designed/non-conforming' device.

          Although many webpages cite just two frequencies (the one of import here is 1575.xxxx Mhz), GPS actually has five different bands L1-L5. The GPS b

    • Agreed, and EVEN IF some weather balloon frequencies could be freed, LS would have to bid for it at auction like all the other people who'd like to use it. If LS are thrown a bone it will just prove how deeply corrupt the system is.
    • ...Look, LightSquared. You should've just paid for actual spectrum you could use before. You acted like a cheap bastard and tried to use the wrong parts because it was cheaper, and then you cried when it didn't work.

      Amen to that.

      I'll add to that:

      Hey, LightSquared... It's a piece-by-piece fail. You should know what works for companies that don't have shit to offer and whose ideas have been blocked from actual implementation.. SUE! :D

      Copyrights, trademarks, anything. Try to squeeze whatever you can from other corporations who have used the ideas "[you] came up with in your sleep before they did."

  • by vmxeo (173325) on Sunday September 30, 2012 @03:26PM (#41508159) Homepage Journal

    I suspect the request to "share" frequencies with weather balloon transmitters has less to do with available bandwidth and more to do with a relative lack of industry who will be able to stand up this time to object. Weather balloons typically transmit at less than 300 milliwatts [noaa.gov]. If they couldn't figure out how to keep their land based-transmitters from overpowering 50 watt gps signals, I don't see how high-altitude balloons signals will fare any better.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      It's just a trial balloon.

    • I would agree that the Weather Balloon Fraternity is less economically and politically advantaged as the GPS community, but ground based radio balloon stations could be upgraded with better antennas / receivers and it might well be a better fit than trying to upgrade millions on tiny little GPS receivers stuck in everyone and everything.

      Again, it would be important not to take Lightsquared's take on this without some due diligence. They haven't shown much of a grasp of radio frequency physics in the past.

      • And who is going to have to pay for this upgrade? Lightsquared was shady with their last dealings with the FCC, I wouldn't expect them to be honest this time around.
    • The Powerpoint presentation:

      Meteorological Aids Spectrum Issues [google.com]

      It comes down to this:

      Radiosonde transmitters operate in a hostile environment, with strict limits on weight, power and so on.

      Most will never be recovered or reused.

      Keep it simple.

      Keep it affordable.

    • by msauve (701917) on Sunday September 30, 2012 @04:14PM (#41508397)
      All else being equal, RF signals diminish at the square of the distance. GPS satellites orbit at ~20,000 km. A weather balloon might get to 50 km, max. So 400x. 400^2=160000. GPS probably uses directional antennae (no sense broadcasting outwards), so maybe a bit less. Even with that, the signals from weather balloons can be expected to be very much stronger than that from GPS. Plus, the reason Lightsquared's original plan would never work is that it used frequencies immediately adjacent to GOS frequencies. That issue is avoided by using a different frequency, one not adjacent to satellite frequencies.

      Still, Lightsquared should be denied - they acquired satellite frequencies cheaply, because of the known limitations. They then wanted to repurpose them for terrestrial use, vastly increasing their value. But, it was proven that couldn't work without interfering with other satellite usage (GPS). The government doesn't owe them anything - they can still use those frequencies for satellites, which is exactly what they paid for. Because they couldn't get much more value than they paid for, they're now asking for a "freebie." They have an exaggerated sense of entitlement. Screw them.
      • At this point, it's hard to tell whether Lightsquared had some real optimists on their tech team, or whether they understand the value of correctly formatted political whining.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by queazocotal (915608)

      Several reasons it's better.
      Firstly, weather balloons are a _LOT_ closer to the transmitter than GPS.
      300mW@100km is a much, much stronger signal than 50W at 40000km.

      Secondly, there are perhaps a few dozen stations that receive weather balloons, and these can be upgraded for well under a few thousand dollars each.
      It's not like GPS, where there are literally millions of receivers that may be affected.

  • LTE (telecommunication) [wikipedia.org], Long Term Evolution, a telephony and mobile broadband communication standard
  • As mis-planned as LightSquared's business plans seem, I do really hope they or someone with a similar idea succeeds soon. Competitors obtaining and lighting up spectrum for data seems like one of the few market based actions needed to really put a bit of pressure on Verizon/ATT and even local broadband providers. That combined with some hopeful new ideas for the FCC on how it doles out spectrum and we could see some increased capability in US broadband options.
  • Again (Score:4, Insightful)

    by sjames (1099) on Sunday September 30, 2012 @03:44PM (#41508251) Homepage

    Here is yet another hair brained scheme to use a public resource on the cheap for private profit. Who needs accurate weather forecasts and severe storm warnings when we could let yet another carrier overcharge us for wireless bandwidth?

  • Great (Score:5, Funny)

    by SuperMooCow (2739821) on Sunday September 30, 2012 @03:49PM (#41508279)
    Another cloud computing business model.
  • The Producers (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bmo (77928) on Sunday September 30, 2012 @04:05PM (#41508353)

    > has a new plan: to use some of the spectrum currently reserved by the federal government for uses like weather-balloon communications.

    BECAUSE NOBODY EVER USES THOSE FREQUENCIES FOR ANYTHING USEFUL RIGHT GUISE?

    The amount of stupid in this company just really makes me wonder if I should just start my own scam and get away with it for years while burning up investor money in impossible persuits designed to fail.

    It's like The Producers. Heaven forbid they actually do something useful and have to pay back their investors by building a useful network

    --
    BMO

  • by k6mfw (1182893)
    going OT, someone said reason why so many Part 15 unlicensed devices on 2.4GHz (i.e. wifi, baby monitors) is way back when various services were carving up the spectrum (TV, music, amateur, marine, business, police, military, aeronautical, etc.) but there were certain frequencies FCC designated as ISM (industrial, scientific, and medical) where companies want to use RF for materials process, cook food, or certain medical applications. These are chunks of spectrum that has no modulation and/or callsign ID. S
    • by hpa (7948)
      Well, part of the reason it is all there (and other ISM bands like 915 MHz and 5.8 GHz) is because the stuff *can* work with interference. This property is useful both when dealing with other "intentional radiators" and with industrial emissions, so it makes sense to put them in the same area. Pretty much the FCC and other regulatory agencies put an (almost) free-for-all sign up and said "if you can make it work, go for it, just don't complain if it doesn't work at all." However, you wouldn't be able to
  • This doesn't have to be an adversarial process or a bad thing.

    If I were in charge, I'd tell Lightsquared "sure, no problem... as long as you supply suitable communication equipment and free bandwidth to anyone affected", where suitable is a low-power modem capable of running for X hours on Y mHA of battery power, and operating between V-Z temperature range.

    If they want to give NOAA, Universities, and anyone else involved in using weather balloons free low-power LTE modems and some reasonable bandwidth, why

  • If this is a go, Lightsquared is morally obligated to allow the license it bought previously to be combined with this new spectrum and "re-auctioned," contingent that it get a full refund with interest and some reasonable costs it has already incurred if it loses the new auction.

    Why?

    Because other bidders placed their bids based on the usefulness of that spectrum at the time, knowing that GPS was already in use and that other slices, including the weather-balloon slice(s), were already allocated.

    If Lightsqua

  • MORONS (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    DO these guys actually have any RF engineers on Staff or Just Fucking Lawyers !?

  • Unfortunately, most average citizens have no understanding of wireless technology, so when a guy like Steve Jobs came along and offered them a consumer gadget that requires loads of bandwidth they buy it by the millions. Now they, and the politicians they elect, and vendors who seek some of their money are locked in a battle for unlimited quantities of something that is limited... bandwidth within the RF spectrum.

    The hard truth is that there is a limit to the available spectrum, and that limited resource sh

    • by Lluc (703772)
      Wow, a Luddite on Slashdot gets modded up...

      Luckily we have many systems in place for managing scarce resources. In fact, almost any resource you deal with throughout life is scarce. I'm not saying we manage wireless frequencies efficiently, but I'm quit sure that "navigation, public safety, national security, etc" have been improved by smartphones rather than suffering due to smartphones taking their bandwidth.
    • ... individuals filling their vacant cranial cavities with individual streams of Youtube cat videos, Justin Bieber vomiting, and other individualized streams of pablum should not be competing for use of the nation's RF spectrum...

      I did a quick correct on that line for ya.

  • According to the official chart, it looks like weather balloons probably make much greater use of the spectrum than LS is willing to admit: http://files.abovetopsecret.com/images/member/8b51a211569e.jpg [abovetopsecret.com]

    Maybe they should look into the swamp gas spectrum.
  • Wouldn't it be hilarious if they gave those who lease the spectrum to them free service, with which usage will ultimately use a large chunk of the available bandwidth (active data use), which will let the end amount of bandwidth be somewhat similar to that of the large service providers today?

    "New, fast, 20mbps data* available.
    * Mileage may vary. Real-time bandwidth tests show end speed at roughly 1-2mbps."

    Just food for thought :)

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