Portal on mobile tower emissions

  1. The Telecom Department has opened a web portal — ‘tarang sanchar’ — to allay misconceptions and fear of health issues due to Electro-Magnetic Fields (EMF) emissions from mobile phone towers.
  2. One can check any tower and its EMF signal compliance status on this web portal.
  3. Telecom Minister Manoj Sinha said, “some people have been propagating myths and misconceptions” about EMF emissions to prevent development, adding that the Centre has been making efforts to dispel such myths.

Note4Students:

Prelims Trivia.

[op-ed snap] Game of tones

Context: Ongoing consolidation in India’s overcrowded telecommunications industry

Mergers:

  1. The current wave of mergers and acquisitions, started in November 2015 with Reliance Communications’ agreement to acquire Sistema’s Indian wireless business
  2. It has gained considerable momentum over the last 15 months with several more announcements
  3. Confirmation of ongoing merger negotiations have been made

Reliance Jio:

  1. Commercial start of services from the latest entrant, Reliance Jio, has been coterminous with the latest round of consolidation
  2. Some of its competitors have referred to as Jio’s “predatory” approach to pricing
  3. The effect is that the industry has found itself buffeted on the one hand by a sharp decline in earnings
  4. On the other hand, there is high cost of servicing the debt that had helped incumbent operators to bid for and acquire the much-needed wireless spectrum at the government’s auction of airwaves
  5. It is this financial bind that the industry finds itself in that Sunil Mittal, Bharti Airtel founder and chairman, alluded to at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona
  6. He said that the return on capital deployed had dipped to low single-digit levels, making investment in the business unviable
  7. Investors would be better off putting their money in a bank and playing golf

Shrinking of telecom market:

  1. In 2011, as many as 12 private players jostled cheek by jowl with the two state-run telephone operators, BSNL and MTNL, as they vied for a share of the country’s 893.8 million wireless subscribers
  2. And while the market had expanded to almost 1.13 billion subscribers as of December 2016, the number of non-state mobile services providers had shrunk to 10, inclusive of Reliance Jio
  3. Seven of the nine are either in the process of being acquired or merged, or in talks to negotiate a deal
  4. The industry is now finally poised to coalesce into four large private sector entities, a welcome development both from the industry and government perspective

Expecting good health:

  1. Size alone may not guarantee the enlarged companies’ good health
  2. Especially given the ongoing fierce battle for market share
  3. That the seriousness of the situation has not been lost on the Telecom Commission is best underscored by the fact that it has asked the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India to ensure orderly growth in the sector
  4. A bruising and protracted price war, while certainly good for the consumers, is bound to extract a heavy price on the service providers’ financials, notwithstanding the deep pockets that the merged entities may command
  5. This in turn risks further eroding the revenue the Centre earns from licence fees and spectrum usage charges, a fact cited by the Telecom Commission in its latest missive to TRAI

Note4Students:

UPSC may or may not question on the telecom sector of the country, but the information in this op-ed is important for an IAS aspirant.

SC clears plan to verify mobile phone users through Aadhaar

The Supreme Court approved the government‘s plan to record the identification details of mobile subscribers through an e-KYC mechanism linked to Aadhaar in a bid to enhance national security and prevent fake users

Note4students:

The details of this news and the basics about TRAI, TDSAT have been covered here.

‘Predatory pricing’ of new entrants like Reliance Jio is hurting telcos: Airtel

  1. What? Bharti Airtel Ltd. said “predatory pricing” by a new entrant in India’s mobile-phone services market is hurting the industry
  2. Bharti Airtel, the country’s largest carrier posted a 55% drop in profit
  3. The interconnection charges which carriers pay each other are “well below cost
  4. This has led to an unprecedented year-on-year revenue decline for the industry, pressure on margins and a serious impact on the financial health of the sector

Note4students: Know about ‘predatory pricing’ in b2b.

Back2basics:

Predatory pricing:

  1. It is the act of setting prices low
  2. Purpose: To eliminate the competition
  3. It is illegal under anti-trust laws, as it makes markets more vulnerable to a monopoly
  4. Companies may engage in a variety of activities that intend to drive out competitors, such as create barriers to entry for new competitors or unethical production methods to minimize costs
  5. A sign of predatory pricing can occur when the price of a product gradually becomes lower, which can happen during a price war
  6. This is difficult to prove because it can be seen as a price competition and not a deliberate act
  7. Short term: A price war can be beneficial for consumers because of the lower prices
  8. Long term: Not beneficial as the company that wins a price war, effectively putting its competitor out of business, will have a monopoly where it can set whatever price it wants

Use Aadhaar e-KYC to verify mobile users: TRAI

  1. What? The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has recommended the use of Aadhaar-based e-KYC for verification of existing mobile subscribers
  2. Why? Aadhaar linked e-KYC service provides a robust mechanism to verify the identity of a person electronically and instantaneously from the source itself, based on the biometrics of a person
  3. Thus, it takes care of the issues relating to fake or forged identity proof and manual entry into the system etc
  4. The use of Aadhaar-based e-KYC should also be permitted for outstation customers
  5. However, this process should be optional to the service providers as well as mobile subscribers
  6. As e-KYC verification could not be made mandatory, a scheme could be formulated to encourage the existing subscribers to undergo the e-KYC process
  7. Present issues: The existing paper-based KYC is not robust enough and the possibility of significant number of working SIMs, which may have been acquired on fake/forged identity, cannot be fully ruled out
  8. The owner of such fake identity would not even be aware that SIMs are working in his/her name
  9. Security challenge: TRAI had received several cases from state police departments where it had been found that hundreds of SIM cards have been obtained using fake documents
  10. The existence of such SIM cards poses a real security challenge

Note4students:

Just know about it. It can form one of the solutions for answers in security issues. Also know about TRAI from prelims perspective. See b2b for this.

Back2basics:

Telecom Regulatory Authority of India:

  1. The entry of private service providers brought with it the inevitable need for independent regulation
  2. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) was, thus, established with effect from 20th February 1997 by an Act of Parliament, called the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India Act, 1997
  3. Aim: To regulate telecom services, including fixation/revision of tariffs for telecom services which were earlier vested in the Central Government
  4. Mission: To create and nurture conditions for growth of telecommunications in the country in a manner and at a pace which will enable India to play a leading role in emerging global information society
  5. Objective: To provide a fair and transparent policy environment which promotes a level playing field and facilitates fair competition
  6. In pursuance of above objective TRAI has issued from time to time a large number of regulations, orders and directives to deal with issues coming before it and provided the required direction to the evolution of Indian telecom market from a Government owned monopoly to a multi operator multi service open competitive market
  7. Disputes: The TRAI Act was amended by an ordinance, effective from 24 January 2000, establishing a Telecommunications Dispute Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT)
  8. Why? To take over the adjudicatory and disputes functions from TRAI
  9. TDSAT was set up to adjudicate any dispute between a licensor and a licensee, between two or more service providers, between a service provider and a group of consumers, and to hear and dispose of appeals against any direction, decision or order of TRAI

DoT to unveil portal on mobile radiation in a month

  1. What: The Department of Telecom (DoT) is set to launch a portal — Tarang
  2. It will have data on all mobile towers and transmitters across the country and will allow a user to check the radiation compliance status
  3. According to Union Minister of State for Communications Manoj Sinha, there is a misconception that electromagnetic emission from towers cause adverse impact on health
  4. There are studies conducted by WHO and various countries but no study has so far established this fact
  5. He further said that permissible limit for the radiation in India is ten times less than those in other countries, thus further reducing the risk

TRAI wants Jio rivals to pay Rs. 3,050 crore fine

  1. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India recommended a hefty penalty of Rs. 3,050 crore on top three telcos – Airtel, Vodafone and Idea
  2. The fine is for violating their license agreement and denial of interconnection to new player Reliance Jio
  3. TRAI stated that these violations are against public interest

[op-ed snap] Bandwidth for growth

  1. Theme: Disappointing response to the recent auction of 2350 megahertz of telecom spectrum.
  2. Reasons: The high indebtedness of India’s telcos and the high base price set by the government.
  3. The positives of Indian telecom sector: A billion consumers, endless minutes of talk-time a day and low tariffs.
  4. Concerns: The quality of service on offer is deteriorating, both in data and voice.
  5. In many areas, networks that should operate at 65 per cent capacity are working at 95 per cent due to high congestion, leading to poor voice services.
  6. Despite the new spectrum with telcos, the sheer volume of voice traffic means that improvements in quality may be marginal. Similar issues plague data traffic.
  7. This could have a bearing on the quality of connectivity and the reach of several of the government’s ambitious programmes, from Digital India to direct benefit transfer.
  8. The way ahead: The government needs to learn from this episode and free the bureaucracy from the fear of the auditor and the investigator soon, for better outcomes in all its plans.

Ministry unveils portal to check call drops

  1. Made by: The Telecom Regulator Authority of India
  2. Functions: Will allow mobile phone users to check the call drop rate, network coverage and call quality on their operators’ network
  3. Transparency portal: Bring in transparency about the network performance as consumers will be able to see if the call drop situation has changed
  4. Further plan: TRAI is likely to come out with a consultation paper on net neutrality and their final view on the issue of free data by the end of this month

TRAI seeks views on use of public Wi-Fi networks

  1. News: The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) issued a consultation paper, seeking views on the use of public Wi-Fi networks for expansion of broadband in the country
  2. Aim: Likely to result in faster Internet speeds, while reducing data costs by up to 90% for consumers
  3. TRAI pointed out that the state of Wi-Fi hotspots was not encouraging in India, significantly lower compared to countries like France, US, and UK

Call drop test in Sikkim, Darjeeling

  1. News: All telecom operators failed in the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (TRAI) call drop test in Sikkim and Darjeeling
  2. Exposing poor state of mobile services, TRAI said that most of the calls could not be connected on their networks
  3. Penalty: TRAI has fixed a penalty of up to Rs 2 lakh for poor mobile services, including call drops
  4. This penalty kicks in for more than 2% call drops in a quarter in 1 telecom circle

TRAI dedicated to quality service delivery

  1. TRAI is looking at various options to ensure that telecom operators work to improve service quality, including reviewing call drop parameter which is set at 2%
  2. It rolled out a dedicated website for publishing result of test drive that it conducts
  3. To make it easier for consumers to file a compliant against telemarketers, TRAI also unveiled ‘DND Services’ mobile application
  4. TRAI has developed a mobile App for easy registration of Unsolicited Commercial Complaints (UCC) to the service providers
  5. Currently, consumers can log complain about messages and calls from telemarketers through toll free number 1909

TRAI seeks more power

  1. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has approached the government seeking powers to impose penalty in order to ensure quality of service from telecom operators
  2. Background: This follows the Supreme Court quashing the TRAI’s regulation to impose penalty on operators for call drops, calling it ‘arbitrary’

SC quashes TRAI’s call drop rules

  1. Context: SC has given order to remove TRAI’s call drop regulation
  2. SC: Regulation is arbitrary, intention is to penalize service provider rather than ensure quality service
  3. Assumption apparent in Telecom Consumers Protection (Ninth Amendment) Regulations, 2015 is incorrect
  4. Assumption: Every call drop is deficiency of service provided by service provider
  5. SC asked parliament to frame law on the lines of U.S. Administrative Procedure Act

India Post strikes it rich with cash-on-delivery payments

  1. News: India Post is expecting cash transactions under cash-on-delivery model of payment to be about Rs 1,500 crore for FY 2015-16
  2. Reason: It has taken major initiatives to strengthen its position for the e-commerce business requirements
  3. Fact: The Department of Posts, with its network of nearly 1.55 lakh post offices, is the largest postal network in the world

Cabinet nod for liberalisation of spectrum at TRAI prices

  1. What: TRAI recoomended prices will be taken as provisional prices wherever administratively (not auctioned) allocated spectrum is available
  2. Balance: after actual auction, the balance will be taken
  3. Why: because market determined price is not available at that moment
  4. Benefits: it would yield the exchequer Rs.1,300 crore and would also lead to better utilisation of spectrum

Centre may propose solution in call drops stand-off

  1. Context: TRAI regulation made the service provider liable to compensate consumers for call drops
  2. News: The govt may propose a solution in the SC to end the impasse between the TRAI and major telecos over the new regulations
  3. The telecom operators argued that 2015 regulations would affect the orderly growth of the sector and make it impossible for them to plan their businesses

Rajasthan celebrates first IT Day, launches connectivity network

  1. News: Rajasthan recently (21st May) celebrated its first IT day
  2. Theme: Promotion of IT Start-ups
  3. Context: State govt launched RajNET, a wide area network connecting the State capital with all 9,894 gram panchayats and 183 municipal areas
  4. Aim: To strengthen connectivity and allow the inclusion of remote areas through Information Technology.
  5. Facilitates: voice, video and data connection, enabling effective delivery of citizen services like Bhamashah, e-Mitra and MNREGA across the State

Delhi HC upholds TRAI order to compensate users for call drops

  1. Background: Earlier, TRAI had ordered that every originating telecom service provider is made liable to credit the calling consumer by 1 rupee for each call drop within its network for a maximum of 3 call drops/day
  2. Later, the telecom operators had challenged the the order
  3. News: The Delhi HC decision makes it mandatory for cellular operators to compensate subscribers for call drops
  4. Impact: Telecom operators may end up paying around 1,000-1,500 crore in a year, if networks are not improved

Telecom Ministry seeks 250% rise in planned Budget

  1. News: Telecom Ministry has sought a planned Budget outlay of Rs.18,214.32 crore for 2016-17
  2. Context: Major chunk of demand of Rs. 8,230 crore comes for implementation of defence service network project
  3. About Defence Service Network: To build an exclusive dedicated alternate communication network for defence services so that the military can free the spectrum for offering mobile services
  4. Proposal for: Double allocation for Universal Obligation Fund which aims to augment the infrastructure and increase telecom coverage in the rural and remote areas
  5. Funds under this head: be utilised for laying optical fibre under National Optical Fibre Network programme

Govt allows sharing of active telecom infra

  1. Context: The department of telecommunications (DoT) has decided to allow sharing of active telecom Infrastructure
  2. Active infra: such as antennae, feeder cables, and transmission systems, Radio Access Network (RAN)
  3. Effect: expected to lower costs for operators and lead to faster rollout of networks
  4. Spectrum sharing: Last year, DoT allowed sharing of spectrum, a critical resource for expansion of telecom networks
  5. Benefit: Help operators enhance their network coverage area and fill the gaps, enabling them to improve quality of service
  6. Earlier: operators were allowed to share only passive infrastructure such as towers, repeaters, and shelters

Adopt open source for connectivity: TRAI

Any technology that is deployed for connectivity must be interoperable, says TRAI chief

  1. The telecom regulator hinted that technology-driven connectivity ventures such as Google and Facebook would be acceptable, only if they followed an open source framework
  2. Facebook is working on a venture that deploys drones in remote and rural areas to provide Internet connectivity
  3. Google’s Project Loon envisages the use of helium-filled balloons to provide data connectivity in remote regions
  4. Each balloon can provide connectivity to a ground area about 40 km in diameter using a wireless communications technology called 4G
  5. The two are trying these approaches as alternative models to reach data connectivity aerially to users

TRAI rules in favour of Net neutrality

TRAI may review these regulations after a period of 2 years.

  1. No service provider can offer or charge discriminatory tariffs for data services on the basis of content
  2. This effectively prohibiting Facebook’s Free Basics and Airtel Zero platform by Airtel in their current form
  3. Reduced tariff for accessing or providing emergency services, or at times of public emergency has been permitted
  4. Financial disincentives for contravention of the regulation have also been specified

Call drops persist, finds TRAI audit

  1. TRAI has revealed that there has been virtually no decrease in call drops and improvement in the quality of mobile network coverage in recent months
  2. This is despite the govt’s tough posture on the issue
  3. The telecom regulator has been auditing and assessing their Quality of Service through independent agencies
  4. Network coverage improved a bit in New Delhi and Mumbai, but saw no improvements in Kolkata and other cities
  5. The audit agencies conduct sample drive tests across various cities in the country to assess coverage quality

TRAI for PPP model for Bharat Net Project

The regulator says Central and State govts. can be anchor clients of the project.

  1. Bharat Net seeks to connect all of India’s households, particularly in rural areas, through broadband by 2017, forming the backbone of the government’s ambitious Digital India programme.
  2. At present, a special purpose vehicle, Bharat Broadband Network Ltd (BBNL), under the telecom ministry is handling the roll out of optical fibre network.
  3. A PPP model that aligns private incentives with long-term service delivery in the vein of the Build-Own-Operate Transfer/Build-Operate-Transfer models of implementation.
  4. The regulator has also suggested that contract period should be of 25 years, which can be further extended.
  5. The funding should be done to bridge the loss incurred due to higher operational expenses and lower commercial accruals.

The trouble with spectrum pricing

The regulator’s recommendation holds risks for an industry that serves a crucial socio-economic objective.

  1. TRAI recommended very high reserve price for auction of spectrum in 700 MHZ band.
  2. This band has high performance efficiency and utility in improving and expanding high-speed wireless broadband services across rural areas.
  3. But high pricing of a public asset may end up having the exact opposite effect:.
  4. It could make a scarce resource so expensive that its meaningful utilisation is compromised, thus unable to serve the larger public good.
  5. Very high per unit price realisation, while possibly helping meet immediate fiscal needs, would only bleed the industry of resources.
  6. High price of spectrum would also affect private investment in network expansion and infrastructure.
  7. The financial viability of the industry is crucial both for private investment and for the government to earn recurring revenues.

Trai wants auction of all available spectrum

The move is likely to put additional burden on telecom firms already stretched after spending on 4G and the 2015 spectrum auction.

  1. India’s telecom regulator has suggested the government auction Rs.6 trillion worth of airwaves, more than five times the value of spectrum sold in the previous auction.
  2. A move that may, if accepted, increase the burden on the already overstretched finances of the telecom operators.
  3. The Trai has recommended auctioning of all the available spectrum, including airwaves in the 700-megahertz (MHz) band.
  4. The Trai recommendations are part of a pricing exercise that the regulator conducts prior to every auction.
  5. To determine the minimum price at which the airwaves should be sold.

What are Gramin Dak Sevaks?

  1. They are extra-departmental agents recruited by the Department of Post (DoP) to serve in rural areas.
  2. Presently, DoP has around 2.6 lakh Gramin Dak Sevaks.
  3. They have been demanding pay and facilities at par with regular postal department employees.

Government forms panel to study wage structure of gramin dak sevaks

  1. To examine the wage structure, service conditions of the Gramin Dak Sevaks (GDS) in the Department of Posts (DoP).
  2. It is one member committee comprising of Kamlesh Chandra, Retired Member of Postal Services Board.
  3. The Committee will go into the service conditions of GDS and suggest changes as considered necessary.
  4. Examine the present system of Branch Post Offices, engagement conditions and existing structure of wage and enrolments paid to the GDS and recommend necessary changes.

DoT to seek regulator’s views on spectrum reforms

  1. The Department of Telecom will seek TRAI’s views on the liberalisation of 800 MHz spectrum in circles where a market determined price is not available.
  2. The govt. has already issued guidelines to liberalise the administratively allotted 2G spectrum.
  3. This allowed operators to offer latest mobile services, including 4G, using the same radio waves.
  4. The govt. will levy latest auction determined price on the spectrum to be liberalised.

Call drops decline after Govt. steps in, says Prasad

  1. The govt’s intervention has led to a decline in frequent call drops faced by mobile phone users.
  2. The private operators have installed over 22,000 new cell sites between July and October.
  3. The problem of call drops have improved in New Delhi but operators still didn’t meet the quality parameters of less that 2%.
  4. A total of 18.33 lakh mobile sites are being operated by telecom service providers across the country.

Call drop penalty to stay for now, says TRAI Chief

  1. TRAI said, regulations are valid as of now and operators should ready their systems to comply with them from January 1.
  2. The regulator will examine the issue raised by the industry, post which a final decision will be taken.
  3. An impression is being created that the authority has imposed this regulation without considering the technical feasibility of its operation.
  4. Authority will examine legally if it can review the decision or not and then decide the course of action.

Soon you will get Re. 1 for call drops

  1. Call drop occurs after voice call is interrupted or disconnected before it is completed after being successfully established.
  2. Thus, it can be said that it represents telecom operator’s inability to maintain a successfully established call prior to their normal completion.
  3. Call drop may occur if signal strength of mobile tower of telecom operator goes below the minimum acceptable single to make a call.
  4. TRAI has made it mandatory for telecom operators to compensate consumers by Rs.1 for call drops with effect from 1 January 2016.

Call drops: TRAI plans to impose fines

TRAI’s service quality parameters includes call drop, availability of mobile towers, time taken for a call to connect, network congestion, voice quality and network related issues.

  1. TRAI raised the penalty on telecom operators to up to Rs. 2 lakh for poor mobile service quality.
  2. The penalty would apply if the operators are unable to meet the benchmark set for the quality of service in 2 or more subsequent quarters.
  3. The penalty will kick-in if call drops in a quarter average more than 2% of the total traffic in a telecom circle.
  4. Consumer-related issues include complaint redressal, refund of wrongly charged money, access to call centre. etc.

DoT issues guidelines: Telcos can now start spectrum trading

The spectrum trading notification said that all access spectrum bands earmarked for access services by the licensor (DoT) will be treated as tradable spectrum bands

  1. The department of telecommunications (DoT) notified guidelines relating to spectrum trading, which will help mobile operators buy and sell spectrum from one another.
  2. It enables some weaker operators to smoothly exit business or reorganise their entire business model,
  3. The stronger ones can increase their spectrum bank which will help them provide better services.
  4. Now, spectrum can be traded between two telecom companies with only outright transfer of right to use it from the seller to the buyer.
  5. Trading will be permitted only on a pan-LSA (licensed service area) basis.

Call drops raise questions about digital india

Let’s analyse the fact about the telecom infrastructure of telcos.

# Present capacity – 5,50,000 towers
# Current requirement – 1,00,000 towers

What are the other challenges ?

  1. The major problem is that there is no uniform national policy on the setting up of these towers.
  2. International comparison suggest that though big metro’s have 2.2 towers/square-km, but Delhi/Mumbai faces a heavy load, as compared to other international counterparts.
  3. Though cell phone towers acts as boosters & help radio waves travel further, but they can interface if so many towers are established.
  4. Shortage of spectrum – International comparison
    • A telecom company in India have only 12 MHz of spectrum, while the global average is 40 MHz.
    • This means Indian telecom companies have less spectral efficiency & need more towers.

Call drop menace to end in a month’s time

  1. The minister has advised the operators not to do anything to meet the growing demand for data services at the cost of voice.
  2. The telecom companies have started optimising their networks.
  3. TRAI has already initiated a consultative process to ascertain whether the operators need to monetarily compensate the consumers for system-generated call drops.

Telcos to blame for call drops: TRAI chief

  1. According to TRAI chairman, the remedy for the problem lies solely with the service providers.
  2. If service providers have more customers than they can satisfy, either they should put more infrastructure or not have the customers.
  3. He stressed that the regulator will not remain a silent spectator and will take proactive steps if the situation does not improve.
  4. As there is opposition from operators to make their operational capacity public, he said, it is an issue of transparency.
  5. TRAI is committed to consumer protection because they are weakest in terms of articulating their problems and grievances.

Cabinet nods for spectrum trading guidelines

  1. It will allow telecom companies to buy and sell spectrum.
  2. This is expected to help address the problem of shortage of spectrum, leading to better quality of services for mobile phone users.
  3. Government allowing companies to share airwaves in the same band so as to reduce call drops.
  4. Presently, spectrum can be acquired by companies only through government auctions.
  5. It gives ‘right of use’ to operators through auction. That right of use can be traded between two service providers.

 

Call drops: TRAI gives 15 days to operators

  1. Recent TRAI audit suggest that almost all operators have failed to comply with quality of service parameters.
  2. TRAI has asked operators to take immediate measures to address the issue.
  3. Their performance would be reviewed in 15 days to measure progress achieved.

Call drop: panel to submit report before Winter Session

  1. The issue of call drop will be taken up by the standing committee on information technology and telecom.
  2. Telecom companies are finding it difficult to install towers because of resistance from local people due to health fears related to tower radiation.
  3. The Department of Telecommunications should lay down certain guidelines on the number of telecom towers vis-a-vis subscriber base.
  4. Private operators will explain their challenges to the parliamentary committee.
  5. Telecom operators should ensure that they have infrastructure to serve customers better.


:( We are working on most probable questions. Do check back this section.







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