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Ruckus Wireless Inc. (NYSE:RKUS)

Goldman Sachs 2014 Technology and Internet Conference Call

February 13, 2014 2:00 PM ET

Executives

Selina Lo – Chief Executive Officer

Seamus Hennessy – Chief Financial Officer

Analysts

Simona Jankowski – Comtech

Operator

Simona Jankowski – Comtech

I’m Simona Jankowski, Comtech analyst and it's my pleasure to welcome Ruckus. Here with us today in the last day of the conference and it's also the day after they reported earnings. So we have some follow-up from that. With me, I'm very pleased to welcome Selina Lo, the CEO and Seamus Hennessy, the CFO of the company.

And so maybe before we get into my Q&A. Selina can you just give a very quick overview of Ruckus just for those who are not as familiar with the company.

Selina Lo

Sure. We provide Wi-Fi solutions for enterprises and service providers. We are pioneer in the service provider Wi-Fi market and right now we are leading market share leading in that space. We also started selling enterprise Wi-Fi in 2008 and today we are the leader in enterprise verticals such as hospitality, education. We are broadening our verticals into warehousing and the use in public venues.

Ruckus has unique intellectual properties that differentiate our solutions against other Wi-Fi players enterprise Wi-Fi players. We just announced earnings yesterday and it was pretty good time for us.

Simona Jankowski – Comtech

Okay. Thank you for that. So you certainly struck a fairly upbeat tone on the opportunities ahead of you for this year and you basically guided for something in the low 20s in terms of first things also revenue for this tier, but before I get to that. I want you seeing in the market. I just wanted to ask you, kind of a high level question which is for a company of Ruckus decides which is still not that big.

You're tackling to a fairly large market enterprise Wireless LAN, service provider Wi-Fi each of them with a fairly significant set of large competitors. One of things that came out of quarter yesterday was that you're actually increasing OpEx this year, so your margins are going to be little lower than I think investors had expected.

So my question is, how are you thinking your ability to invest sufficiently in both of these markets. So that you can keep up with a rebound [ph] say things like .11ac launches or stay with Alcatel or things on the small cell side.

Selina Lo

So two different markets however, service provider, Wi-Fi and enterprise Wi-Fi actually share very common product sets. I would say 90% of our access points, are used by both service providers and enterprises and even our controller platform, the new controller platform that we introduced SCG. Which is a high-end, high capacity, very scalable wireless LAN controller platform that we built for service providers?

Some of our lot enterprise customers as well as enterprise system integrators are actually very interested in the platform and some of them are already using it host their customers networks and so from an R&D perspective there is a lot of commonality from a sales and marketing perspective.

On the enterprise business, we are very; first of all we select the verticals where we think Ruckus will have an unfair advantage. For example, in hospitality because of our Smart Wi-Fi technology we can cover hospitality typically comparing to our competitors. We can provide the same capacity and very, very reliable Wi-Fi with a [indiscernible] access point giving the hospitality sector much better price performance ratio.

And so we know that we can win in that space, for example education again the simplicity of our products give us advantage, amount that caters well. We also are now expanding into verticals, where our technology makes a big difference. For example with warehousing and logistics.

Definitely vary our challenge and its perfect for our technology. So on the enterprise side, we select verticals where we have an unfair advantage. We use completely channel based distribution 100% channel based distribution. So we get the leverage there.

On the service provider side, we partner with NSN and ALU basically, the enemies of my enemies became our friends. So we leverage them a lot. And I think that's you mentioned that we are continuing to invest. A lot of that plan investment is in continue R&D and because we plan to invest in things that will be available in two years.

We are not talking about investing and something that will come out next year. We are talking about long-term investment because we believe in the robustness of the market and we also think that, for example the service provider Wi-Fi segment, we are still in the early phase of a large evolution to a different kind of infrastructure that service providers will be building and we think that, we can play a significant role in that kind of an infrastructure for mobile data.

So that's why we are investing.

Simona Jankowski – Comtech

Okay, that's very helpful and as we try to think about where those areas of R&D are likely to be, is it more service provider enterprise and is it more hardware versus software oriented?

Selina Lo

So certainly I think overall, I'll say company's direction. We are putting a lot of energy in service based products, software based products. It doesn't mean that we won't invest in hardware but the percentages will go more to its software and service based solution.

In terms of, whether it's enterprise and service providers. Well, I think as I said the things that we are building are common. A lot of times common between the two, however I would say that over the next two, three years. I think that there will be more leverage between both enterprise customer based and service provider customer base.

I'll just give you one quick sound bite [ph] there. If you look at what the mobile operators are doing with small cells. They are trying to overlay or underlay a whole network of small cells to supply more capacity. Well, where are they going to put the small cells. They're going to put the small cells where there is a lot of people density and those density indoor areas.

And those are also density locations owned by some kind of enterprise. So I think that there is actually tremendous leverage between the two and where Ruckus will be investing with the solutions that can benefit both of them.

Simona Jankowski – Comtech

Okay, very helpful. So let me move over to just exploring some of the top line drivers starting on the service provider side, which today is smaller to about third of your revenue, but it's arguably the larger opportunity on a go forward basis. Last year, on the call last night you talked about that your revenues last year. If you take out the issues in China and the difficult comps will be a large Japanese customer would have been up 80%, which is obviously quite significant.

Can you talk a little bit about the key drivers of that kind of growth last year and when as if you look into this year, what you think that will be?

Selina Lo

Okay, sure. So last year, if we look at service provider revenues. A significant portion of the revenue came from the MSO's, the cable operators. Wi-Fi is to the cable operators, an extension of their broadband stronghold and so they look at probably Wi-Fi as an extension of the home Wi-Fi that their customer base are using and all the home services that they're offering today, it can be accessed over Wi-Fi remotely on the operators network.

Well on top of that, it gives them a tremendous leverage in turn reduction and competitive advantage in subscriber acquisition. The MSOs are actively today very investing significantly in Wi-Fi infrastructure. In fact, some of you may know the top five MSO's in the US are working together to build this cable Wi-Fi network that today I think has the widest Wi-Fi footprint.

It has the 150,000 hotspots and if you think about them expending that over the next couple of years to several times that, well that can become a significant competitor. I think competition again, your standard mobile service that especially today, you have to pay for every megabyte that you use and so I think the MSOs are looking at offering a whole different kind of value propositions and that's why they're investing.

However, if you look at customer acquisition, okay not revenue but customer acquisition last year. We actually if in terms of new customers. The mobile tier-1, tier-2 mobile operators was the biggest win for us. We acquire a lot of tier-1 mobile operators and what that explains to me is that. The mobile guys are recognizing that Wi-Fi is an essential part of their mobile infrastructure and many of them that have not started looking at Wi-Fi are starting and the ones who have been doing something with Wi-Fi it has become for them a standard infrastructural deployment.

Simona Jankowski – Comtech

Okay, that's very helpful. Actually while we are on the topic of the MSOs. I did want to ask for your quick take to this morning's announcement. Comcast and Time Warner cable obviously there's still a lot to be done in terms of that deal getting approved and going through but if something like that were to happen, what would be the implications for Ruckus?

Selina Lo

Well, Time Warner cable is great customer of ours and so we are happy that if their franchise become expanded. I think it will be great thing for Ruckus. Especially Comcast today is not a big customer of Ruckus, I think there is tremendous opportunity ahead of us.

Simona Jankowski – Comtech

Okay, you talked a little bit about how most of the wins you had last year were mobile operators and in particular tier-1, tier-2. Clearly there is lag there because we are not seeing a lot of those deployments actually take place but it's good to hear that you're here winning some of those customers, can you talk a little bit about where we might start to see some of the mobile tier-1s being to roll out Wi-Fi and in particular specific to the US, we are really starting to see a lot from both AT&T and Sprint for this year, if you can touch on those as well.

Selina Lo

Yes, so we see a lot of mobile operators starting however, in general I would say that the sales cycle and the deployment cycle for the mobile operators tend to be longer and more gradual. I think we were kind of spoiled by one customer that deploy over a 100,000 access points over a four, five quarter period.

I don't think that is definitely an exception and most of the time I think we will see that kind of volumes on mobile operators but not, but overall much longer period of time and I think that a lot of times, when they deploy, you don't actually see their deployments because their deployment is actually more indoors and deploy amount fee enterprises. Amount public venues and small, medium business and retail chains and that kind of enterprise.

And part of that, the reason is that, it's very, it's takes a long time to acquire outdoor cell sites and I think that's one of the gating items for the mobile operators. For outdoor small cell infrastructure, but indoors they're deploying, they're just not doing in a concentrated though, if you know, well its long tail and gradual.

Simona Jankowski – Comtech

So then as we look at the tier does that mean that you'll still think that the cable [indiscernible] is really, what the biggest driver of your growth in the area?

Selina Lo

Well, I believe that he cable operators will continue to invest probably invest in even more significant way because I think they have now tasted success. I do think that, there is another segment of operators that has emerged that's very interesting. In my earnings, I talk about this operator in South Africa. We are seeing a lot of this kind of operators, people who use to sell backhaul, they've ton slots of fiber and all of them instead of selling pipes to enterprises and to other mobile operators, they realize that they can offer a service and we are seeing a lot of that kind of operators.

They combine, manage enterprise services with an offering for public access.

Simona Jankowski – Comtech

And back to North America, you have cited both AT&T and Sprint in the past with customers of Ruckus and now they're both rolling out small cells and I think AT&T made the comment that all of their small cells this year would come with Wi-Fi, so should those not be meaningful opportunity for you guys, this year?

Selina Lo

So just to clarify, with AT&T we have only cited them as a customer on the enterprise side, they are a strong hospitality partner for us. We have other activities going on within AT&T, but I cannot comment on them. Sprint is certainly increasing its momentum and we are very engaged with them and I'm not prepared to comment further.

Simona Jankowski – Comtech

Okay, maybe just to ask for related question. Which is, maybe to your partnerships with Alcatel and Nokia? If Alcatel is going into a customer with a small cell deployment would they pretty much exclusively us Ruckus or are they using a couple of different vendors for the Wi-Fi piece?

Selina Lo

So far, we've been a number of tier-mobile operator deals with ALU, whether they're exclusive to us. I don't know, I don't follow them and check but I think what amounts their potential partners Ruckus is the only one that has significant traction with the service providers. So I think, if [indiscernible].

Simona Jankowski – Comtech

And as a follow-up to that, Alcatel is obviously making a big bet on small cell themselves and part of that was their partnership last year with Qualcomm and I wanted to explore that a little bit because you have also in the past commented on Qualcomm and be sharing the space and trying to commoditize small cells and Wi-Fi in this context, what are the implications of that for Ruckus?

Selina Lo

So I think Qualcomm has been a long time partner of Ruckus and will continue to be partner of Ruckus. ALU's partnership with Qualcomm on small cell is a great thing for Ruckus. Certainly between Qualcomm and ALU both of them are current partners and there is no indicator that anything is going to change. I think Qualcomm and ALU both realize that Wi-Fi is not Wi-Fi.

I mean anybody can make a Wi-Fi product, today there are thousands of Wi-Fi suppliers, but the quality of that Wi-Fi makes a big difference to service provider deployment, that's why we see the partnership going with ALU and NSN and I believe that it's not a short-term partnership.

Simona Jankowski – Comtech

So you don't think investors need to be worried about a potential [indiscernible] where say, Alcatel can just use Qualcomm's reference design, their Wi-Fi and not means Ruckus to the Wi-Fi piece?

Selina Lo

So just like I said, Qualcomm has a Wi-Fi reference design but that's designed for the masses, that's designed for enterprise Wi-Fi. I mean Qualcomm has supplied many, many vendors and most of them are enterprise or residential Wi-Fi players. There are only so many people that sell Wi-Fi to service providers that actually can go into their infrastructure and the Ruckus is the leading vendor, they're so.

I don't think, I don't feel that's what at all.

Simona Jankowski – Comtech

Sure. I mean you guys still add lot other value because you have your own chip that's just next to Qualcomm chip and that's why you run a lot of?

Selina Lo

We are lot smarter in ChanelFly.

Simona Jankowski – Comtech

And smart, okay, so that differentiation still holds.

Selina Lo

Yes, regardless of that.

Simona Jankowski – Comtech

Okay. I wanted to also follow-up on the analytics product you recently launched. Can you just give us a little bit of color on that in particular on what kind of traction you're seeing and how should we think about you guys monetizing it?

Selina Lo

Yes. So, it's actually a very unique product and I'm really excited about it. So most everybody has network management products, but our analytics engine it’s the first time that a Wi-Fi that a Wi-Fi supplier has a solution that allows a service provider to track years of statistics, so that they can track their KPI, their key performance indicators they can produce, they can access that vast data in a very easy way, they can customize their reporting, they can determine what period they want to look at, what type of criteria they want to zero-in on and it's something that, only Ruckus offers and it's already a number of service providers are in trials with it.

Now in terms of revenue, this is one product in a very broad portfolio for us. So we don't expect that, this is going to be material in the near term. However, it has strategic value to our total offering. Now we have one other reason other than the SCG. We have now one other thing that and SCG and BeamFlex I forgot, BeamFlex is smart antenna technology.

Now we have one more thing that is an unique differentiation.

Simona Jankowski – Comtech

And that's very helpful. Just a follow-up on the SCG which is your SmartCell Gateway. Your metric there has really gone slight nice in the course of the last year, which is really the first year of your shipping that product? Anything you can tell us about the size of that business, that at this moment in terms of run rate or anything like that?

Seamus Hennessy

Yes, we've deployed over 100 systems to-date and but it's the key reason why we are winning a lot of service provider account, we are not going breakout percentage of revenue, but it's definitely a key driver of why we are actually winning a lot of service provider account and we are starting to see interest from our larger channel partners to as well because of its scalability and deployability.

Simona Jankowski – Comtech

And just in terms of kind of helping to decide that, I mean I think at one point you talked about kind of fully loaded from a software perspective SCG could cell for something like a $1 million or more, is that still the right way to think about it or is that something you grow into?

Seamus Hennessy

I think from a straight perspective, systems were in 100,000 but it starts more and it build. So the sweet thing about, the SmartCell Gateway is allowed to service provider or even large tunnel partner to start small and scale up the network goes and more of them have to make big investment upfront, but we sell, we sell it as a system. We sell access points with a SmartCell Gateway, but the key differentiator is the scalability, the size of the platform, the ability to actually deploy access points in the network without all of them have controller on-sites and it's very strategic to us and to the platform.

Selina Lo

You can think of it this way, every SCG that we sell. We have the ability to connect it to 100,000 AP and so it is the 100,000 AP that is the big number.

Simona Jankowski – Comtech

Got you and then one other question I want to talk about third provider side is on China, so that was a pretty significant headwind for you in the first half of the year. You sounded more optimistic on it on the call yesterday basically saying that it started to grow a little bit, since last year but don't get too excited yet.

So can you just help us understand what's going on in that market?

Seamus Hennessy

The Chinese part of the business we're starting, it's actually on the enterprise side. Is part of the business it's actually coming back faster than the service provider. We are starting to see, the service provider starting to slowly come back, but we're going to be cautious. We started to see some recovery in late Q3 carried into Q4, we are starting to see some positive momentum in Q1, but we are going to be cautious until we see it over same period of time, but we remain cautious but optimistic about what's actually happening in China.

And I think it will be an easier comp in 2014 versus 2013.

Selina Lo

I also think that, in our guidance. We have taken into consideration, our sentiment about China in general. So we have taken a conservative view of what we will get on time as we see it.

Simona Jankowski – Comtech

Okay, so let me move over to the enterprise side of the business. Just forward out, at a high level what are some of the most important trends you're seeing there? In enterprise yes?

Selina Lo

Well, I think 11ac is certainly a very exciting upgrade cycle. I think that this year, we are starting to see the beginning of that cycle becoming meaningful, but we think that 2015 is the big year. Today we are seeing ways one product now available from every vendor. So now, I think the plain feel is level.

I think that a lot of the enterprise, especially those that already have a Wi-Fi network and the Wi-Fi network is not broken. They will certainly migrate slowly because there is a way to ac that probably going to come out the beginning of 2015 the wave-2 supports a new technology called multi-user MIMO that allows the technology to give a much higher capacity and throughput and support much larger number of users and that ways to requires a different chipset. It's not just a software upgrade.

So I think, the knowledgeable enterprises are going to start slowly with wave-1 and migrate when wave-2 is here.

Simona Jankowski – Comtech

Okay and yesterday on your call, is actually when you first talked about the .11ac products now shipping through records. How should we think about that product cycle, when we've seen that play outs for some of your competitors. It was actually those small numbers, but it's still pretty positive for some of the ASP [ph] list perspective and a little bit of an upgrade cycle as well.

Can you help us quantify some of that in particular maybe the ASP [ph] premium you guys might premium you guys might see?

Seamus Hennessy

We are just shipping right now, so I think we'll update on the next call, but I think we're excited about the fact that we do have ac right now, the fact we are on 11 plain field where everybody over the last couple of quarters, haven't had an impact because we've been late to market, but now the fact we do have .11ac, we have the ability to go bid them to accounts and go win accounts and go compete, when it's actually really acquired.

And we do expect to be positive in 2014, but we expect that 2015 will be the big year for .11ac.

Simona Jankowski – Comtech

And Selina obviously it hasn't mattered much from a revenue perspective, but from a perception perspective the factor late-to-market, would eliminate ac. I think it's something that we dealt a few questions about, so we would love to see if you can help clarify, what if anything can change in that on a go forward basis because I understand a lot of that was tied to your vendor roadmap, so is that something that will continue to be an issue or is that something you can have some control or informs on?

Selina Lo

We are taking control of our destiny, let's put it this way. Okay so unlikely to see something like that happen if it relates to.

Simona Jankowski – Comtech

Okay, I also wanted to just touch on the new product, you announced just I think this week which was SPoT, which was basically your Wi-Fi in application. Can you describe the product a little bit and how should we think about that effecting revenue for Ruckus?

Selina Lo

Sure. SPoT is our indoor Wi-Fi location based services. Basically with Ruckus access points, now we can track all the handset, Wi-Fi handsets and the movement and we take all the location information and we put that into cloud-based fixed data engine and we provide APIs to that engine, so that people can develop apps over it, people in the ecosystem.

We also provide analytics capability such that, we can for example let's say this hotel. We can come to this hotel, we can track every Wi-Fi handset that's in this hotel using our access point, without any app on the handset, without any sensors and then we can provide analytics report to the hotel. For example, with where are the hotspot in the hotel meaning, where are the people, where's traffic and how does that traffic move and what hour, how traffic varies based on the hour and how many people come in twice, three times, four times in week.

So basically we can provide that kind of information to the venue owner or to the channel that sell into the venue owner. So it is very attractive for our VAS [ph] that sell into public venues and retails, shopping malls, retail business.

It's also attractive for service providers because all of sudden it keeps them awake and monetize, that's because if they know the location of each user, they can actually do positive advertisement or they can access the portion of the targeted advertisement. So service providers actually see that as something that they're very excited about.

Now again, this is something that is currently in Beta and we plan to ship next quarter. I think you know the revenue expectation for this year is, we are not putting a lot of that into our plan. However, the strategic value is that this helps us, this again differentiates Ruckus and it helps us win deal.

Simona Jankowski – Comtech

So kind of similar, so when we talk about the analytics product. It's something that differentiates you, it makes your product little sticker and as I understand this is a fast type revenue model, so it could build over, as you're expand into footprint.

Selina Lo

Yes.

Seamus Hennessy

Yes.

Simona Jankowski – Comtech

Okay and maybe this is a good [indiscernible] ask you a question on margin. In particular, those margins actually came in a little better than expected last quarter and especially when you kind of compare them to the third quarter or you had some one-time benefit to growth margins from just recognizing deferred, that sequential increase was somewhat meaningful, can you just explain a little bit what drove that and then I want to come back to some questions on the go forward.

Seamus Hennessy

Yes and of course our gross margins can fluctuate quarter-to-quarter because the timing it deals product mix, but I think last quarter it was very healthy across the board and our full product portfolio, as we start to roll out more and more software based features. Our SmartCell Gateway and our access points to keeping buzz economies of scale, was starting to kick into as well. So as you're seeing, especially over the last eight to 10 quarters our gross margins have continued to be healthy and now we are operating at the high end of a long term model.

I still think we feel comfortable with the high end of our long term model to, it's too early for us to even think about changing it, but it's one area where we do spend a lot of time and focusing on it and as you seem to have a product portfolio. A lot of new products we keep coming out with, our new software base products that enable us to enhance that gross margin or maintain it overtime and because we sell access point and cell controllers and gateways for all the time to sell new product like SmartCell in size, location-based services and that's the mentality of the company as we go forward to build product that can maintain that gross margin, if not growth.

Simona Jankowski – Comtech

That makes a lot sense, just because I was just on follow-up on that. as we just talked about a lot of the service provider business so far has been, mostly cable providers even a big one might only deploy say 5,000 or 6,000 access points in a quarter. As we go into some of these very large mobile operator opportunities in the next couple of years.

Where you know one operator could be deploying 10,000 or more access point, a quarter and over the 100,000 over the course of the deployment. I imagine, that comes with some different margin sector. Is that fair and when that happens, though do you feel that some of the software businesses you've talked about can help off that back?

Seamus Hennessy

Absolutely, the great thing about our businesses. The majority of our access point, that discuss the enterprise of the same access point, we sell to service providers. I guess the large customers does get benefits of bigger discount, but there is not a significant difference in gross margin profile because we do sell controllers. There is additional software licenses on top of those controllers or gateway.

Overall, that helps us to protect our margin and as we start to come out with new software features that helps us to protect, if not possibly growth and our gross margins continue, even if their service provider business continues grow, continues to healthy and expand and we get economies in scale that actually benefit, the enterprise to as well, as those networks and those deployments are pretty large too as well.

So economies of this scale are a big factor of why, our gross margins continue to grow.

Question-and-Answer Session

Simona Jankowski – Comtech

Okay, I'm going to open it up for questions in the audience in just a minute. But the last one, I wanted to ask you is on the competitive landscape. How would you characterize it now versus say to year ago. Even when we look at some like fiscal or the organic business was actually down to them well Meraki is doubling. It seems like there is a very significant shift in the market place.

How are you guys seeing that change competitive dynamics?

Selina Lo

Well, we actually compare to a year ago. We don't see that the competitive landscape that differently from a year ago. I personally think that the fiscal Wi-Fi the downtrend is probably an internal issue. The balance between the Meraki and their own traditional, conventional Wi-Fi.

We see Meraki again only in education. Meraki tends to attack the F part of FMB, whereas we tend to focus on M part of the FMB. So the vertical where you see them is education and it hasn't really become more or less over the last year.

We continue to compete with Cisco and Aruba. In fact, more so Cisco and Aruba then before we also see HP and we see Motorola but now it seems like HP and Motorola have their visibility in the market has spun down. So we tend to compete more with Cisco and Aruba.

Simona Jankowski – Comtech

Okay. Thank you. I think there was a question up here and thank you for waiting for the mike.

Unidentified Analyst

So two questions please, the first is fall to the competition question. Ebiquity has reported some significant market share gains in the enterprise side of the market. If you can help us understand, where do you run into them as the competitor and how do you see that playing out of the time?

Selina Lo

So we actually still there are, as far as a quarter ago, when Ebiquity, all of sudden announced the jump-in enterprise Wi-Fi you know the only place is My Channel and Salesforce said that, they've encountered Ebiquity where the developing market at the very price sensitive tier.

So in Latin America, in India. Actually in India there is more service provider, but in Latin America and in Africa. So in those developing markets, there's always a tier of business that we don't do and that's really low margins business. If you look at in general, right. The product lines on Ebiquity, it tends to be 60% cheaper than everybody else in our space.

And so they, I think it's fixed to how huge their Wi-Fi opportunity that actually there is a low end where they confuse with Netgear and Linksys and Meraki perhaps. Whereas in our mainstream business, we don't see them in the enterprise at all.

Unidentified Analyst

Got it and just ones' a follow-up on the new service provider business that you were talking about the South Africa company that you mentioned. Are you seeing any of that in the US as well maybe RLX, [ph] they're people who historically have not been able to do an effective last mile over copper, are they turning to you and what kind of opportunity do you see and when could that be added into your revenue?

Selina Lo

We absolutely see a new breed of service provider in the US. Generically, I mean if you look at what Google is doing for example, lay fiber in a number of metros and going after Wi-Fi opportunities. Certainly I think you can look at Google as a new service provider, but also there are other large wireless ISP's in North America that are winning significant Wi-Fi manage of this deal and we definitely see some of those contribute nicely to our service provider business.

Simona Jankowski – Comtech

Great. I think that's all the time we have with Selina and Seamus. Thank you very much for joining us.

Selina Lo

Thank you.

Seamus Hennessy

Thanks.

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