Convergence Plus
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Monday, November 18, 2019
Cloudconnect: - In India’s Newly Hyperconnected, Mobile-First World, Businesses

CloudConnect: - In India’s newly hyperconnected, mobile-first world, businesses need to move beyond the limitations and cost-inefficiencies of traditional Business Communication Systems. CloudConnect Communication Pvt. Ltd. is India’s first DOT-licensed and regulation-compliant fully-operated and managed cloud-based voice platform that’s remarkably feature-rich, flexible, and easy-to-use, ensuring better productivity and business continuity, no matter how business is spread.

With CloudConnect Small and Medium Businesses gain access to 21st-century enterprise communication systems such as PBX on Mobile, which is a first in India, it also offers a range of services including Business Phone Solutions, Unified Communications, and Customised Business Communication Solutions. Keeping in mind the modern workforce, multiple offices, flexible-working, hot-desking and working from home, CloudConnect gives Indian SMBs access to Fortune 500 features with their Business Communication App so mobile workers have never-before access to all the same business features, across devices, and locations, across single and multiple offices. This ensures business communication never stops and, staff, productivity, and profits aren't tied to their desks and business continues as usual even across remote locations. This empowers teams to securely communicate faster, reduce downtime, and collaborate smarter with much-needed flexible features that work at any location, any time, on any device. This helps businesses to reduce the cost and management hassles of expensive on-premises hardware.

India’s most comprehensive and secure Business Communication Suite:- CloudConnect is hosted in India’s premier Tier-4 data center, ensuring all data is secure.CloudConnect is Simple, Scalable and Seamless. The product and development teams have ensured an easy-to-install, easy-to-maintain, easy-to-use system that can manage multiple locations with multi-office centralized PBX through a single integrated platform for Voice, Video, Data Sharing, and Office automation.

CloudConnect integrates Business Communication channels, networks, systems, IT business and, consumer applications and devices all delivered through the cloud, on mobile. Customized solutions such as teleconsultation, Hosted IVR, PBX on Mobile, Unified Communications, HD audio & video, broadcast, and geo-location will enable Indian SMBs and Startups in industries like Healthcare, Education, Real-estate, Manufacturing, Sales & Marketing, Logistics, and Technology to thrive.

CloudConnect has a team that has deep expertise in the technology and telecom sector, lead by Gokul Tandan, together with seasoned industry veterans with decades of leadership in their respective industries.

Headquartered in Delhi, CloudConnect was started in 2017 with an aim to bridge the gap and address the immediate the need for businesses in India’s new digital economy to be agile, responsive, to provide next-generation customer experience, and digitally transform their business. With CloudConnect, businesses are now powered by a faster system of communication that enables their teams to drive up productivity with smarter, mobile-first audio, and video collaboration tools, amongst a host of features that will help a business communicate faster, and collaborate smarter on any device, anytime, anywhere.

Within a short span of time from its inception CloudConnect has an ever-growing clientele of businesses who were looking for the right partner to help orchestrate complete digital transformation. For Delhi-based Roam1, CloudConnect’s Cloud Telephony services provided a one-stop, fully functional, advanced enterprise communication solution that replaced their costly traditional telephone carriers and PBX systems eliminating the need to buy expensive on-premise PBX and giving them full functionality on any mobile device. Additionally, CloudConnect’s analytics on their platform made it far easier for Roam1 to collect comprehensive data, improving the scope for analysis so they can continuously improve their business. (Source: Convergence Plus)

ITU to Debate Telcos’ Usage of 5G Band

Spectrum regulators at the Geneva-based International Telecom Union (ITU) are set to debate today a proposal from the telecom department, backed by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), to slash the transmission capability of mobile base stations operating in the coveted 26 GHz millimetre wave spectrum band – widely considered among the most efficient airwaves for ultra-fast 5G services.

The national space agency has convinced the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) to push for a sharp cut in the transmission power of mobile base stations operating in this core 5G band to a measly 0.5 watts, which is an 80th of the standard 40 watts radiated by normal base stations, according to people aware of the matter.

The reason, they said, is that ISRO wants a small chunk of about 10% of the 26 GHz spectrum band for satellite services and wants zero interference from 5G mobile networks using the same airwaves in future.

The matter is likely to be debated at the ITU meeting where India’s position on 5G spectrum bands and technology conditions will be thrashed out. After this, it will be discussed at the ITU’s World Radio Communications-2019 conference in Egypt, starting October 28, where regulators are meeting to finalise the rules of operating 5G globally in various spectrum bands, including 26 GHz.

The development has triggered a sense of disbelief in the telecom industry, with experts saying the proposed restriction in the transmission power of mobile base stations would destroy 5G business case for India in 26 GHz band as financially stressed telcos would be forced to make investments in thousands of additional base stations to maintain basic 5G coverage, a scenario that would sharply increase 5G roll-out costs and make services unaffordable for the consumer.

“The Department of Space does not have any specific comments to offer at this stage on this subject,” an ISRO spokesman said in a written response to ET’s queries. Queries to telecom secretary Anshu Prakash remained unanswered till press time on Sunday. (Source: Economic Times)

Indian IT Services Firms See No Big Blowback from Brexit

Firms expect business to be as usual, with Europe and UK firms still looking to outsource tech. Indian IT services providers are unlikely to be negatively impacted by Britain’s decision to leave the European Union, commonly referred to as Brexit, as they are seeing steady growth in the UK and European markets.

“It is unlikely to have a negative impact on Indian tech because the UK will want to create new partnerships,” said Sangeeta Gupta, senior vice-president, Nasscom, the IT services industry lobby.

Some of the large IT services companies have seen faster growth in the UK and Europe than from their traditional US market in the past four-five quarters. Companies expect business to be as usual, and some regions in Europe and the UK are still picking up outsourcing of technology services, said Kuldeep Koul, lead analyst at ICICI Securities.

The UK government last Thursday clinched a last-minute deal with the European Union to exit. But the Boris Johnson-led British government has to get Parliament approval for the same, for which it has reportedly sought an extension till October 31.

Large tech services firms are keenly watching the situation, but companies such as WNS seem confident about their deal pipeline and automation-focused projects in the region. “Whilst for some, exposure to the UK economy looks like a risk to the business, WNS’s management is adamant that the UK pipeline remains very strong with clients firmly committed to existing plans,” Tech Market Review wrote in a report.

“Perhaps, we shouldn’t be surprised, indeed, many of WNS’s services are of course counter cyclical – not just traditional BPO cost-cutting but automation and procurement services are all very attractive in environments when “pennies have to be counted” and efficiencies gained," it said. The report also pointed out that, "WNS must continue to push on its automation drive but remains a business in good shape with strong visibility to double-digit organic growth.” The IT services sector is, however, a little cautious about delays in decision making.

“...there will be some industry or companies who do not know whether there’s going to be a deal or no-deal Brexit, so they do not know what will happen to their market. So, they may have taken a pause on some discretionary expenses; then there is going to be some impact,” said Koul of ICICI Securities. Gupta of Nasscom said that "the uncertainty and how it prolonging is what would be worrisome".

As per Gupta, business is now continuing for IT firms, but faster decisions would help the sector focus. For example, she said, some banks, which are clients of IT firms, may have to shift headquarters from the UK to Europe or vice versa, post-Brexit. (Source: Economic Times)

Road to 5G: Top 3 Telcos Look to Spend Over $30 b to Step Up Infra

Jio & Airtel, with their strong balance sheets, poised to gain from fibre backhaul: Experts. India’s top three telecom operators are looking at a collective capital expenditure of a shade over $30 billion (₹2.1 lakh crore) on base stations and fibre infrastructure alone for rolling out ultra-fast fifthgeneration or 5G mobile networks, said analysts.

Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea, they said, would require to spend $10 billion capex each over the next five years, while Reliance Jio Infocommm’s incremental 5G capex outgo is estimated lower at around $8 billion as the Mukesh Ambani-led operator already has more 5G-ready fiberised towers than the incumbents, having already spent around $2 billion on tower fiberisation.

Analysts were, however, sceptical about Vodafone Idea’s ability to afford such big-ticket capex spends given its continuing market share losses and weak financials, which they said could choke its 5G play.

They also said the need for a dense site footprint and fibre backhaul in 5G would shift the balance of power towards larger and integrated operators with strong balance sheets like Jio and Airtel, while those with high gearing levels are at risk given the sustained high capex needs.

“Airtel and Vodafone Idea will each need to spend $2 billion annually on 5G radio and fibre capex spread across 5 years,” UBS said in a report, implying 65% and 85% of Airtel’s and Vodafone Idea’s current annual India capex run rates respectively.

By contrast, Jio’s 5G capex, it said, “would be lower due to its larger tower footprint and higher proportion of towers on fibre backhaul compared with Airtel and Vodafone Idea”. The brokerage also expects Jio to transition to 5G in a “time-efficient manner”, given its in-house data centres and investments in a content distribution network (CDN).

Analysts questioned lossmaking Vodafone Idea’s ability to make high 5G capex investments, though, as it is expected to continue losing market share as network integration and delayed 4G roll-outs have weakened its competitive position.

“Vodafone Idea’s stretched balance sheet will limit its participation in the 5G opportunity, and the company will require a significant improvement in network quality to arrest market share loss and revert to revenue growth,” UBS said in a note seen by ET.

Credit Suisse backed the view, saying, “Vodafone Idea will lose the most market share, and will need additional equity capital by FY21, given our expectation of no price increase”.

ET’s queries to Vodafone Idea, Bharti Airtel and Jio remained unanswered till press time.

UBS estimates that Airtel’s India mobile revenue will grow 5-6% in this financial year and the next even if interconnect usage charges – a source of revenue for incumbents – get scrapped from January 2020.

However, according to analysts, the telecom sector can reduce overall estimated $30.5 billion 5G capex spends by 15-20% if Airtel, Vodafone Idea and Jio share towers and fibre resources.

The Department of Telecommunications is keen to hold the next spectrum sale latest by January 2020.
Credit Suisse doesn’t expect the 5G spectrum sale to attract much interest, though, owing to a mix of “high reserve prices, telcos’ focus on monetising 4G investments, stretched balance sheets, a nascent 5G ecosystem and lack of significant 5G use cases for mass consumption”. (Source: Economic Times)

Airtel Expects to Cross 35% Revenue Mkt Share in 3 Qtrs

Telecom market has consolidated, co beginning to grow revenues: CEO Vittal. The war for subscribers in India’s telecom market is at a “decisive” phase, Gopal Vittal, Bharti Airtel CEO for India and South Asia, said, adding that the telco will target crossing the 35% revenue market share mark in three quarters, by “attacking” the weak spots of rivals Reliance Jio and Vodafone Idea.

“We are now at a decisive phase in the war for customers in telecom… The market has consolidated. It is of course still brutally competitive but at the same time it is now settling. We are beginning to grow our revenues,” Vittal said in a recent communication to employees, available exclusively with ET.

“This is our time to lead the agenda and target a dramatic increase in our market share. The next two to three quarters must see us get well past 35% revenue market share,” Vittal told his staff of over 16,000 employees, spanning across mobile, homes and enterprise.

He added that the telco’s current RMS at 31.4% has been steady for the last six months, but that the mobile phone company should focus on two critical parameters — net 4G additions, or adding data users who generate higher revenue, and improving average revenue per user (ARPU) — in a bid to grow RMS. India’s carriers have been in the midst of a bloody price war since the entry of Reliance Jio in September 2016, which has triggered a rapid consolidation, shrinking the market to just three private sector players from eight, including a merger of the second and third largest carriers — Vodafone India and Idea Cellular, now called Vodafone Idea. In the process, Airtel’s subscriber base is down to over 281 million at the end of June from nearly 345 million a year back.

Hit by competitive intensity, Airtel’s India mobile business has been making losses for a few quarters now, but its revenue has started to grow, albeit slowly, over the last two quarters, helped by expansion in its ARPU, which in turn was mainly driven by the company getting rid of low-ARPU or inactive users. Airtel India’s mobile business churn — or the number of users leaving the network in a month — increased to 2.6% in the April-June quarter from 2% a year back, but improved from 2.8% in the previous three months ended March.

“I want every one of you (employees) to be paranoid about winning back customers we have lost and attacking the vulnerable spots where our competitors are weak,” the chief executive said, adding that there needs to be “razor sharp” focus on the subscriber churn by addressing complaints aggressively.

Analysts expect Vodafone Idea to be an easier target given its financial issues and ongoing service disruptions due to network integration, compared with Jio, which still maintains its aggressive pricing in a bid to target 500 million customers and is already the leader by RMS and subscribers.

“We expect Jio’s revenue market share to increase to around 44% by FY22E from 28% in FY19 while that of Vodafone Idea to decline to around 24% by FY22E from around 34% in FY19. We expect Bharti Airtel’s market share to remain largely stable at around 29%,” Swiss brokerage firm Credit Suisse said in a note to clients.

Brokerage CLSA underlined the criticality of adding 4G subscribers that will be key to the recovery of ARPU for all carriers.

“Over the past six months, Bharti Airtel has stepped up its 4G roll out, which has resulted in 31% incremental market share in new 4G users, which is 10 percentage points higher than its 21% share among 4G smartphone subscribers,” CLSA said.

Airtel Expects 35% Market Share
The brokerage added that it has a positive outlook for Jio and Airtel, but was concerned about Vodafone Idea’s “out-of-control” debt to equity ratio. Vittal though is aware of the challenges at hand, which include a gap in the telco’s rural coverage, which he said needs to be covered through a cost-sensitive model. The company leads in three markets (Delhi, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka), is No. 2 in 11 and third ranked in the rest. To win share in challenger markets “will require rigorous de-averaging down to a tehsil, street, outlet and customer level,” Vittal said. He added that the telco needs to raise its digital efforts in a bid to have 100 million monthly customers on its digital assets. (Source: Economic Times)

Infosys sets up tech and innovation centre in Arizona

Plans to hire 1,000 US workers by 2023. Infosys has set up a technology and innovation centre in Arizona, US and plans to hire 1,000 American workers in the state by 2023.

The company, which had in 2017 announced its commitment to hire 10,000 American workers in two years time, said it had surpassed that target. Arizona Technology and Innovation Centre has a special focus on autonomous technologies, Internet of Things (IoT), full-stack engineering, data science and cybersecurity, Infosys said in a statement.

Infosys’ investment in Arizona will amplify top local talent alongside the best global talent to shrink the IT skills gap in the state, it added. Hiring is currently in progress and the centre will move to its permanent location - a 60,000-square-foot facility in the ASU Novus Innovation Corridor by 2020 - and would accommodate up to 500 employees, the statement said. “Infosys plans to hire 1,000 American workers in the state by 2023,” it added.

The inauguration of Infosys’ Arizona Technology and Innovation Centre is an important milestone in the company’s efforts to help American enterprises accelerate their digital transformations, Infosys CEO Salil Parekh said. “We are excited to have completed our commitment to hire 10,000 American workers and we look forward to leveraging and empowering this specialised workforce to bridge the technology skills gap in the market and accelerate the digital agenda of our clients,” he added.

The centre includes a series of labs, showcasing new prototypes in virtual reality, augmented reality and robotic technologies. In addition, it is home to a Makers Space that encourages innovation through 3-D printing and other Makers projects.

Infosys has also announced a partnership with InStride that will allow its employees to complete degree programs and continuing education courses through Arizona State University. (Source: The Hindu BusinessLine)

Intertrust Roars Past 2 Billion Devices With OTT Content Protection for One-Quarter of the Globe

ExpressPlay DRM — World's Most Complete Cloud-based Multi-DRM — Marks Big Year Spanning Support for Hundreds of Millions of Viewers in Major Sports Events and Ecosystem Expansion in India, Europe, U.S., and China

AMSTERDAM at IBC 2019 (Hall 5, Booth 5.A55) — September 12, 2019 — Intertrust, the pioneer in Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology, today announced that ExpressPlay DRM™ has achieved an unprecedented milestone. The first and only multi-DRM technology available across all streaming platforms, DRM, and media formats, ExpressPlay DRM now protects the over-the-top (OTT) TV content for one-quarter of the world’s population, supporting a seamless viewing experience for more than two billion people.

The growth in service population represented by this figure came hand-in-hand with new records on the platform’s ability to handle massive transaction loads peaking over 50,000 requests per second in multi-operator, multi-DRM settings across several continents.

Today’s announcement, at the annual International Broadcasting Convention (IBC) in Amsterdam, also came in conjunction with a major expansion of ExpressPlay DRM’s sister product, ExpressPlay XCA™, which is the world’s first open-standard software conditional access (CA) system for smart TVs and set-top boxes. Operators can use ExpressPlay XCA to bridge the gap between CA and DRM content protection in a single, converged broadcast and broadband service.

ExpressPlay is the only multi-DRM cloud that supports Apple FairPlay DRM, Google Widevine, Adobe Access, Microsoft PlayReady and open-standard Marlin DRM. It is fully compatible with ExpressPlay XCA, which uses Marlin DRM to provide seamless interoperability for hybrid TV operators on mobile, web, smart TVs and set-top boxes. ExpressPlay, which offers integration with leading watermarking technologies to protect early-window 4K/UHD content, also delivered another recent world record as the first DRM used for this application.

“ExpressPlay traces its roots to our pioneering DRM products in the ‘90s, and it is deeply rewarding to see it become the global gold-standard for multi DRM,” said Talal G. Shamoon, CEO at Intertrust Technologies. “As we license our technology to major native DRM platform providers, it’s an honor to run multi-DRM services for the world’s leading studios and service providers, who trust us to deliver flawless, secure services for their valuable content offerings.”

Leading DRM Technology
Protecting both content creators and users in all major broadcast markets, including wide adoption across Europe, the U.S., China, and India, the ExpressPlay platform is geographically distributed for high availability and low latency. It is the leading DRM technology in China and an essential component of nationwide video distribution initiatives in the U.K., Italy and Japan.

In the last year alone, ExpressPlay DRM has supported 23 million concurrent OTT users at a single major International sports event, with a peak handling load of 100 million daily active users for a specific event in one day.

The cloud-based service can enable online media service with robust rights management in a few easy integration steps without any new infrastructure or setup cost. It offers enhanced hardware security that meets Hollywood standards for premium UHD/4K and early-window content, single API access for multi-DRM support, and end-to-end content protection enhanced with session-based video watermarking.

Media and analysts can learn more about ExpressPlay DRM at IBC 2019 in Amsterdam which takes place at the RAI convention venue. Interested parties are invited to the Intertrust booth in Hall 5 (Booth 5.A55), or they can contact intertrust@sparkpr.com to arrange an online or in-person briefing and demo. (Source: Convergence Plus)

RCom Lenders may Get Only ₹10k cr Against ₹49k-cr Claims

ON THE BLOCK are spectrum, towers and fibre assets of RCom and two of its subsidiaries; telcos Airtel and Jio, tower cos, PE firms and ARCs are among the prospective bidders

The assets of Reliance Communications (RCom) and its two units, including spectrum and towers, are expected to fetch ₹9,000- ₹10,000 crore, people familiar with the matter said, likely leaving financial lenders staring at a steep haircut given their combined claims of over ₹49,000 crore.

“The initial valuation shows that the assets should fetch at least ₹9,000-₹10,000 crore, if the insolvency proceedings complete within the next few months,” said one of the people directly involved. “The value of a telecom firm’s assets, especially spectrum, shrinks with time and all approvals need to come in place for a successful sale.”

In the ongoing insolvency process for RCom and its two units — Reliance Infratel and Reliance Telecom — assets up for sale include airwaves in the 850 MHz band—to be used for 4G — in 14 of India’s 22 telecom circles, about 43,000 telecom towers and some fibre.

Those that have shown interest in the assets include mobile phone operators Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel; tower firms like ATC Telecom Infrastructure; asset-restructuring firms such as Asset Care & Reconstruction Enterprise Ltd and UV ARC; private equity firm TPG Asia VII SF Pte; and India Infrastructure Fund II.

The companies mentioned above did not respond to ET’s queries while TPG declined to comment.

As many as 53 financial lenders have raised claims of about ₹57,382 crore, of which ₹49,223.88 crore had been verified by RCom’s resolution professional (RP), Deloitte.

Top Indian financial lenders include State Bank of India with a verified exposure of over ₹4,800 crore, Bank of Baroda (over ₹2,500 crore), Syndicate Bank (over ₹1,225 crore) and Punjab National Bank (nearly ₹1,127 crore). Top overseas lenders include China Development Bank (nearly ₹9,900 crore), Exim Bank of China (over ₹3,356 crore) and Standard Chartered Bank (Mumbai and London, over ₹2,100 crore).

Another person said that the resolution professional is trying to wrap up the insolvency proceedings by mid-October.

“We are bound by confidentiality obligations and are unable to comment on client-specific matters,” said a Deloitte spokesperson in response to ET’s queries.

The person added that the companies that have expressed interest have started their due diligence into the assets, but the main stumbling block in way of the successful sale of assets as part of the overall insolvency process remains spectrum, the most valued asset.

Like Aircel, another telco that’s undergoing bankruptcy resolution, RCom is embroiled in a battle with the telecom department over ownership of spectrum in the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT).

The government wants both telcos to return the airwaves, which it regards as a national asset, since they haven’t been paying fees or dues. The telcos say they bought the spectrum at auction and, since it’s within the validity period, the operators have the right to sell it to another party and repay financial lenders, many of which are state-run entities.

RCom holds the licences for 850 MHz 4G spectrum, which will expire in July 2021. Any delay will see its value drop further. Any order in favour of the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) will hit the asset-sale process, and thus, lenders.

In an earlier deal to sell wireless assets to Reliance Jio, which collapsed last year after it wasn’t cleared by the telecom department over unpaid dues, RCom was supposed to sell the spectrum for ₹7,300 crore.

Besides banks, operational creditors such as tower companies, equipment vendors and DoT are facing losses as well. They have claimed nearly ₹30,000 crore in dues, of which over ₹21,000 crore has been verified. For example, in the case of Aircel, the resolution plan has earmarked just about ₹16.5 crore for hundreds of operational creditors, which had claimed about ₹20,000 crore in dues. (Source: Economic Times)

Time to Revisit FTAs to Fire Up Electronics

Union IT minister says whatever the opposition, the country will never compromise on data sovereignty. India should revisit free trade agreements (FTAs) with several countries, as they continue to hamper the country’s plan to emerge as a manufacturing powerhouse for electronics, said Ravi Shankar Prasad, the Union Minister of Communications, Electronics & Information Technology, and Law & Justice.

The country will also not compromise on data sovereignty, Prasad said, as the provision for mandatory data localisation under a proposed data protection law continues to draw criticism from large US technology and finance companies.

“I am keen to push India’s case for strategic electronics, medical electronics, but some FTAs have been done with some countries… I do not wish to take the names of those countries, and I regret to say those FTAs were executed completely disregarding the interest of India,” Prasad said during the ET Startup Awards on Friday. “We have to revisit them in our own way”.

India has a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with several countries. Under an FTA, each country is required to gradually reduce and eventually eliminate tariffs on the other country’s goods - which also include electronic goods - according to a predecided timeline of implementation. The Consumer Electronics and Appliances Manufacturers Association (CEAMA) said recently that appliances and consumer electronics products should be excluded from the purview of FTAs, to boost domestic manufacturing and promote exports.

Critics of India’s FTAs have reasoned that the agreements signed by India are with production-driven economies, resulting in finished products from these countries being imported into India at a lower cost than what it would have cost to manufacture the same in India.

Prasad, who has won praise for driving the Digital India initiative, said the country had just two factories making mobile phones in 2014, but that has grown to 268 units now.

On the proposed data protection legislation, Prasad said the Bill was a work in progress and that the government was in the process of seeking clarification from some eminent people in the field.

“I can give you some general ideas, and my general idea is, we need to have a balance between data availability, data utility, data innovation, data anonymity and data privacy. We need to have a clear understanding between personal data and impersonal data. Impersonal data must be available for general good, personal data can also be available, (but) duly anonymised,” he added.

India’s stand on data localisation has complicated the already persisting trade issues between the United States and India, with US technology and financial companies such as Facebook, Google, Mastercard, Visa, American Express and PayPal hoping for a liberalised data regime.

“I am aware that some degree of movement is inherent in a data economy, but one thing is very clear, and let me make that statement using the platform of the Economic Times — the government of Narendra Modiji will never compromise on data sovereignty of India, that should be very clear,” he said.

The government’s reasoning is that data generated by Indians should be viewed as a natural resource, which the state must protect through localisation. (Source: Economic Times)

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