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Internet Protocol television (IPTV) is a system through which digital television service is delivered using the architecture and networking methods of the Internet Protocol Suite over a packet-switched network infrastructure, e.g., the Internet and broadband Internet access networks, instead of being delivered through traditional radio frequency broadcast, satellite signal, and cable television (CATV) formats.

IPTV services may be classified into three main groups: live television, time-shifted programming, and content (or video) on demand. It is distinguished from general Internet-based or web-based multimedia services by its on-going standardization process (e.g., ETSI) and preferential deployment scenarios in subscriber-based telecommunications networks with high-speed access channels into end-user premises via set-top boxes or other customer-premises equipment.


Historically, many different definitions of IPTV have appeared, including elementary streams over IP networks, transport streams over IP networks and a number of proprietary systems. Although (in Mid 2007) it is premature to say that there is a full consensus of exactly what IPTV should mean, there is no doubt that the most widely used definition today for consumer IPTV is for single or multiple program transport streams (MPTS) which are sourced by the same network operator that owns or directly controls the "last mile" to the consumer's premises . This control over delivery enables a guaranteed quality of service (QOS), and also allows the service provider to offer an enhanced user experience such as better program guide, interactive services etc.

In commercial environments IPTV is widely deployed for distribution of live TV, video playout channels and Video on Demand (VOD) material across LAN or WAN IP network infrastructures, with a controlled QOS.

The official definition approved by the International Telecommunication Union focus group on IPTV (ITU-T FG IPTV) is as follows:

"IPTV is defined as multimedia services such as television/video/audio/text/graphics/data delivered over IP based networks managed to provide the required level of quality of service and experience, security, interactivity and reliability."


In 1994, ABC's World News Now was the first television show to be broadcast over the Internet, using the CU-SeeMe videoconferencing software.

The term IPTV first appeared in 1995 with the founding of Precept Software by Judith Estrin and Bill Carrico. Precept designed and built an Internet video product named IP/TV. IP/TV was an MBONE compatible Windows and Unix-based application that moved single and multi-source audio/video traffic, ranging from low to DVD quality, using both unicast and IP multicast Real-time Transport Protocol (RTP) and Real time control protocol (RTCP). The software was written primarily by Steve Casner, Karl Auerbach, and Cha Chee Kuan. Precept was acquired by Cisco Systems in 1998. Cisco retains the IP/TV trademark.

Internet radio company AudioNet started the first continuous live webcasts with content from WFAA-TVmarker in January, 1998 and KCTU-LP on January 10, 1998.

Kingston Communications, a regional telecommunications operator in UK, launched KIT (Kingston Interactive Television), an IPTV over DSL broadband interactive TV service in September 1999 after conducting various TV and VoD trials. The operator added additional VoD service in October 2001 with Yes TV, a provider VoD content. Kingston was one of the first companies in the world to introduce IPTV and IP VoD over ADSL.

In 2003, Total Access Networks Inc launched its IPTV service, comprising of 100 free IPTV stations world wide. The service has been used in over 100 countries world wide, and has channels in 26 languages.

In 2005, Bredbandsbolaget launched its IPTV service as the first service provider in Swedenmarker. As of January 2009, they are not the biggest supplier any longer; Telia who launched their service later has now more customers.

In 2006, AT&T launched its U-Verse IPTV service in the United Statesmarker, comprising a national head end and regional video-serving offices. AT&T offered over 300 channels in 11 cities with more to be added in 2007 and beyond. On March 2009, AT&T announced that U-verse had expanded to 100 or more High Definition channels in every U-Verse TV market. While using IP protocols, AT&T has built a private IP network exclusively for video transport.


In the past, this technology has been restricted by low broadband penetration and by the relatively high cost of installing wiring capable of transporting IPTV content reliably in the customer's home. In the coming years, however, residential IPTV is expected to grow at a brisk pace as broadband was available to more than 200 million households worldwide in the year 2005, projected to grow to 400 million by the year 2010. Many of the world's major telecommunications providers are exploring IPTV as a new revenue opportunity from their existing markets and as a defensive measure against encroachment from more conventional Cable Television services.

Also, there is a growing number of IPTV installations within schools, universities, corporations and local institutions.


[[Image:IPTV-Countries.svg|thumb|400px|right|Map of IPTV countries of the world.

While all major western countries and most developed economies have IPTV deployments, the world's leading markets for IPTV for now are Germanymarker (by Deutsche Telekom) Francemarker (led by Free, then Orange, then Neuf Cegetel; total of over 4 million subscriptions), South Koreamarker (1.8 million subscriptions), Hong Kongmarker, Japanmarker, Italymarker, Spainmarker, Belgiummarker, Austriamarker, Chinamarker, Singaporemarker, Switzerlandmarker and Portugalmarker. Services have also launched in Bosnia and Herzegovinamarker, Croatiamarker, Macedoniamarker, Montenegromarker, Romaniamarker, Serbiamarker, Sloveniamarker, The Netherlandsmarker, Denmarkmarker, Finlandmarker, Estoniamarker, Hungarymarker, Norwaymarker, Swedenmarker and Icelandmarker. The United Kingdommarker launched IPTV early and after a slow initial growth, in February 2009 BT announced that it had reached 398,000 subscribers to its BT Vision service. Claro has launched their own IPTV service called "Claro TV". This service is available in several countries in which they operate, such as Dominican Republicmarker, El Salvadormarker, Guatemalamarker, Hondurasmarker, Nicaraguamarker. IPTV is just beginning to grow in Central and Eastern Europe and Latin America, and now it is growing in South Asian countries such as Sri Lankamarker, Pakistanmarker and especially Indiamarker. but significant plans exist in countries such as Polandmarker and Russiamarker. Kazakhstanmarker introduced its own IPTV services by Alacast and national provider Kazakhtelecom under the "iD TV" brand in two major cities Astana and Almaty in 2009.

The first IPTV service to launch on the Chinese mainland sells under the "BesTV" brand and is currently available in the cities of Shanghai and Harbin. In India IPTV was launched by Airtel and the government service provider MTNL and BSNL. In Pakistan IPTV was launched by PTCL, brand name Smart TV. In Malaysia, Hypp.TV will be launched as TM's IPTV service.

Distinction of IPTV from Internet TV

A telco IPTV service is usually delivered over a complex and investment heavy walled garden network, which is carefully engineered to ensure bandwidth efficient delivery of vast amounts of multicast video traffic. The higher network quality also enables easy delivery of high quality SD or HD TV content to subscribers’ homes. This makes IPTV by default the preferred delivery platform for premium content. However, the investment for a telco to build an end-to-end IPTV service can be substantial.

By contrast "Internet TV" generally refers to transport streams sent over IP networks (normally the Internet) from outside the network that connects to the users premises. An Internet TV provider has no control over the final delivery and so broadcasts on a "best effort" basis. Elementary streams over IP networks and proprietary variants as used by websites such as YouTube are now rarely considered to be IPTV services.

Compared to telco IPTV, Internet TV is a quick-to-market and relatively low investment service. Internet TV rides on existing infrastructure including broadband, ADSL, Wi-Fi, cable and satellite which makes it a valuable tool for a wide variety of service providers and content owners looking for new revenue streams. However, due to the fact that IPTV is always delivered over low cost IP STB, which have limited computing power, the capability for IPTV operators to provide diverse multimedia services is limited. This is where Internet TV has an advantage as it is delivered to a subscriber's (generally) powerful PC.

The relative ease of establishing an Internet TV service seems at first a threat to telco IPTV operators’ multimillion dollar investment, but both services do not necessarily compete for the same customers and there are some synergies between the two such as a common technology platform in the form of web-based technologies for content storage and delivery.

Broadcast IPTV has two major architecture forms: free and fee based. As of June 2006, there are over 1,300 free IPTV sources available. This sector is growing rapidly and major television broadcasters worldwide are transmitting their broadcast signal over the Internet. These free IPTV sources require only an Internet connection and an Internet enabled device such as a personal computer, HDTV connected to a computer or even a 3G cell/mobile phone to watch the IPTV content. Various Web portals offer access to these free IPTV sources. Some cite the ad-sponsored availability of TV series such as Lost as indicators that IPTV will become more prevalent.

Because IPTV uses standard networking protocols, it promises lower costs for operators and lower prices for users. Using set-top boxes with broadband Internet connections, video can be streamed to households more efficiently than current coaxial cable. Home networks currently use technology from the Multimedia over Coax Alliance, HomePlug Powerline Alliance or Home Phoneline Networking Alliance to deliver IPTV content to any set-top box in a home, without having to install new Ethernet wires and without relying on technologies like 802.11, which are not optimized for reliable delivery of video streams. ISPs are upgrading their networks to bring higher speeds and to allow multiple High Definition TV channels.

IPTV uses a two-way digital broadcast signal sent through a switched telephone or cable network by way of a broadband connection and a set-top box programmed with software (much like a cable or DSS box) that can handle viewer requests to access to many available media sources.

Local IPTV, as used by businesses for audio visual AV distribution on their companynetworks is typically based on a mixture of:a) Conventional TV reception equipment and IPTV encodersb) IPTV Gateways that take broadcast MPEG channels and IP wrap them to create multicast streams.

Architecture of IPTV

Architecture of a Video Server Network

Depending on the network architecture of the Service Provider, there are two main types of Video Server architectures that can be considered for IPTV deployment, Centralized, and Distributed.

The Centralized Architecture model is a relatively simple and easy to manage solution. For example, as all contents are stored in Centralized servers, it does not require a comprehensive content distribution system. Centralized Architecture is generally good for a network that provides relatively small VOD service deployment, has adequate core and edge bandwidth and has an efficient Content Delivery Network (CDN).

A Distributed Architecture is just as scalable as the Centralized model, however it has bandwidth usage advantages and inherent system management features that are essential for managing a larger server network. Operators who plan to deploy a relatively large system should therefore consider implementing a Distributed Architecture model right from the start. Distributed Architecture requires intelligent and sophisticated content distribution technologies to augment effective delivery of multimedia contents over service provider's network.

Home Networks for IPTV distribution

In many cases, the Residential Gateway that provides connectivity with the Broadband Access network is not located in close proximity to the IPTV Set-Top Box. This scenario becomes very common as service providers start to offer service packages with multiple Set-Top Boxes per subscriber.

Traditional home networking technologies such as Ethernet and 802.11 do not provide a good solution to provide connectivity between the Gateway and each Set-Top Box. Most homes today are not wired with Ethernet cable in every room, and installing new Ethernet cables is expensive for service providers and undesirable for consumers. Wireless technologies like 802.11 are optimized for data transmission, but they usually don't provide the Quality of Service required by IPTV applications.

Networking technologies that take advantage of existing home wiring (such as power lines, phone lines or coaxial cables) have become a popular solution for this problem, although fragmentation in the wired home networking market has limited somewhat the growth in this market.

On December 2008, ITU-T adopted Recommendation (also known as G.9960), which is a next generation home networking standard that specifies a common PHY/MAC that can operate over any home wiring (power lines, phone lines or coaxial cables).

IMS architecture for IPTV

There is a growing standardization effort on the use of the 3GPP IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) as an architecture for supporting IPTV services in carriers networks. Both ITU-T and ETSI are working on so-called "IMS-based IPTV" standards (see e.g. ETSI TS 182 027). The benefits of this approach are obvious. Carriers will be able to offer both voice and IPTV services over the same core infrastructure and the implementation of services combining conventional TV services with telephony features (e.g. caller ID on the TV screen) will become straigthforward.The MultiService Forum recenly conducted interoperability of IMS-based IPTV solutions during its GMI event in 2008 (


IPTV covers both live TV (multicasting) as well as stored video (Video on Demand VOD). The playback of IPTV requires either a personal computer or a set-top box connected to a TV. Video content is typically compressed using either a MPEG-2 or a MPEG-4 codec and then sent in an MPEG transport stream delivered via IP Multicast in case of live TV or via IP Unicast in case of Video on Demand. IP Multicast is a method in which information can be sent to multiple computers at the same time. The newly released (MPEG-4) H.264 codec is increasingly used to replace the older MPEG-2 codec.

In standards-based IPTV systems, the primary underlying protocols used are:

  • Live TV uses IGMP version 2 or IGMP version 3 for IPv4 for connecting to a multicast stream (TV channel) and for changing from one multicast stream to another (TV channel change).

Network Personal Video Recording is a consumer service where real-time broadcast television is captured in the network on a server allowing the end user to access the recorded programs on the schedule of their choice, rather than being tied to the broadcast schedule.The NPVR system provides time-shifted viewing of broadcast programs, allowing subscribers to record and watch programs at their convenience, without the requirement of a truly personal PVR device. It could be compared as a "PVR that is built into the network" – however that would be slightly misleading unless the word "Personal" is, of course, changed to "Public" for this context.

Subscribers can choose from the programmes available in the network-based library, when they want, without needing yet another device or remote control. However, many people would still prefer to have their own PVR device, as it would allow them to choose exactly what they want to record. This bypasses the strict copyright and licensing regulations, as well as other limitations, that often prevent the network itself from providing "on demand" access to certain programmes (see Heroes, below).

In Greecemarker, On Telecoms offers an NPVR service to all subscribers in their basic package with all the programming of all major national Greek TV channels for the last 72 hours. The user has to sign in their contract that they agree that the company will record national programming of the last 72 hours FOR them so that they can come around any legal implications (like the ones mentioned here) as this service would work like a personal PVR.

Currently, the only alternatives to IPTV are traditional TV distribution technologies such as terrestrial, satellite and cable. However, cable can be upgraded to two-way capability and can thus also carry IPTV.

IPTV via satellite

Although IPTV and conventional satellite TV distribution have been seen as complementary technologies, they are likely to be increasingly used together in hybrid IPTV networks that deliver the highest levels of performance and reliability. IPTV is largely neutral to the transmission medium, and IP traffic is already routinely carried by satellite for Internet backbone trunking and corporate VSAT networks. The use of satellite to carry IP is fundamental to overcoming the greatest shortcoming of IPTV over terrestrial cables – the speed/bandwidth of the connection.

The copper twisted pair cabling that forms the last mile of the telephone/broadband network in many countries is not able to provide a sizeable proportion of the population with an IPTV service that matches even existing terrestrial or satellite digital TV distribution. For a competitive multi-channel TV service, a connection speed of 20Mbit/s is likely to be required, but unavailable to most potential customers. The increasing popularity of high definition TV (with twice the data of SD video) increases connection speed requirements, or limits IPTV service quality and connection eligibility, yet further.

However, satellites are capable of delivering in excess of 100Gbit/s via multi-spot beam technologies, making satellite a clear emerging technology for implementing IPTV networks. Satellite distribution can be included in an IPTV network architecture in several ways. Simplest to implement is an IPTV-DTH architecture, in which hybrid DVB/broadband set-top boxes in subscriber homes integrate satellite and IP reception to give near-infinite bandwidth with return channel capabilities. In such a system, many live TV channels may be multicast via satellite (IP-encapsulated or as conventional DVB digital TV) with stored video-on-demand transmission via the broadband connection. Arqiva’s Satellite Media Solutions Division suggests “IPTV works best in a hybrid format. For example, you would use broadband to receive some content and satellite to receive other, such as live channels”.

The Hybrid Broadcast Broadband TV (HbbTV) consortium of industry companies is currently promoting and establishing an open European standard for hybrid set-top boxes for the reception of broadcast and broadband digital TV and multimedia applications with a single user interface.

An alternative approach is the IPTV version of the Headend in the Sky cable TV solution. Here, mutilple TV channels are distributed via satellite to the ISP or IPTV provider’s point of presence (POP) for IP-encapsulated distribution to individual subscribers as required by each subscriber.

This can provide a huge selection of channels to subscribers without overburdening Internet trunking to the POP, and enables an IPTV service to be offered to small or remote operators outside the reach of terrestrial high speed broadband connection. An example is a network combining fibre and satellite distribution via an SES New Skies satellite of 95 channels to Latin America and the Caribbean, operated by IPTV Americas.

While the future development of IPTV probably lies with a number of coexisting architectures and implementations, it’s clear that broadcasting of high bandwidth applications such as IPTV is accomplished more efficiently and cost-effectively using satellite and it’s predicted that the majority of global IPTV growth will be fuelled by hybrid networks.


The IP-based platform offers significant advantages, including the ability to integrate television with other IP-based services like high speed Internet access and VoIP.

A switched IP network also allows for the delivery of significantly more content and functionality. In a typical TV or satellite network, using broadcast video technology, all the content constantly flows downstream to each customer, and the customer switches the content at the set-top box. The customer can select from as many choices as the telecomms, cable or satellite company can stuff into the “pipe” flowing into the home. A switched IP network works differently. Content remains in the network, and only the content the customer selects is sent into the customer’s home. That frees up bandwidth, and the customer’s choice is less restricted by the size of the “pipe” into the home. This also implies that the customer's privacy could be compromised to a greater extent than is possible with traditional TV or satellite networks. It may also provide a means to hack into, or at least disrupt (see Denial of Service) the private network.

The economics of IPTV

The cable industry's expenditures of approximately $1 Billion per year are based on network updates to accommodate higher data speeds. Most operators use 2-3 channels to support maximum data speeds of 50 Mb/s to 100 Mb/s. However, because video streams require a high bit rate for much longer periods of time, the expenditures to support high amounts of video traffic will be much greater. This phenomenon is called persistency. Data persistency is routinely 5% while video persistency can easily reach 50%. As video traffic continues to grow, this means that significantly more CMTS downstream channels will be required to carry this video content. Based on today's market, it is likely that industry expenditures for CMTS expansion could exceed $2 Billion a year, virtually all of this expenditure being driven by video traffic. Adoption of IPTV for carrying the majority of this traffic could save the industry approximately 75% of this CapEx expense.


An IP-based platform also allows significant opportunities to make the TV viewing experience more interactive and personalized.The supplier may, for example, include an interactive program guide that allows viewers to search for content by title or actor’s name, or a picture-in-picture functionality that allows them to “channel surf” without leaving the program they’re watching. Viewers may be able to look up a player’s stats while watching a sports game, or control the camera angle. They also may be able to access photos or music from their PC on their television, use a wireless phone to schedule a recording of their favorite show, or even adjust parental controls so their child can watch a documentary for a school report, while they’re away from home.

Note that this is all possible, to some degree, with existing digital terrestrial, satellite and cable networks in tandem with modern set top boxes. In order that there can take place an interaction between the receiver and the transmitter a feedback channel is needed. Due to this terrestrial, satellite and cable networks for television does not allow interactivity. However, interactivity with those networks can be possible in the combination with different networks like internet or a mobile communication network.

Video on demand

Video on demand (VoD) permits a customer to browse an online program or film catalog, to watch trailers and to then select a selected recording for playback. The playout of the selected movie starts nearly instantaneously on the customer's TV or PC.

Technically, when the customer selects the movie, a point-to-point unicast connection is set up between the customer's decoder (SetTopBox or PC) and the delivering streaming server. The signalling for the trick play functionality (pause, slow-motion, wind/rewind etc.) is assured by RTSP (Real Time Streaming Protocol).

The most common codecs used for VoD are MPEG-2, MPEG-4 and VC-1.

In an attempt to avoid content piracy, the VoD content is usually encrypted. Whilst encryption of satellite and cable TV broadcasts is an old practice, with IPTV technology it can effectively be thought of as a form of Digital Rights Management. A film that is chosen, for example, may be playable for 24 hours following payment, after which time it becomes unavailable.

IPTV-based converged services

Another advantage of an IP-based network is the opportunity for integration and convergence. This opportunity is amplified when using IMS-based solutions. Converged services implies interaction of existing services in a seamless manner to create new value added services. One good example is On-Screen Caller ID, getting Caller ID on your TV and the ability to handle it (send it to voice mail, etc). IP-based services will help to enable efforts to provide consumers anytime-anywhere access to content over their televisions, PCs and cell phones (for example see, and to integrate services and content to tie them together. Within businesses and institutions, IPTV eliminates the need to run a parallel infrastructure to deliver live and stored video services.


IPTV is sensitive to packet loss and delays if the streamed data is unreliable. IPTV has strict minimum speed requirements in order to facilitate the right number of frames per second to deliver moving pictures. This means that the limited connection speed/bandwidth available for a large IPTV customer base can reduce the service quality delivered.

Although a few countries have very high speed broadband-enabled populations, such as South Koreamarker with 6 million homes benefiting from a minimum connection speed of 100Mbit/s, in other countries (such as the UK) legacy networks struggle to provide 3-5 Mbit/s and so simultaneous provision to the home of TV channels, VOIP and Internet access may not be viable. The last mile delivery for IPTV usually has a bandwidth restriction that only allows a small number of TV channels – typically from one to three – to be delivered.

The same problem has also proved troublesome when attempting to stream IPTV across wireless links within the home. Improvements in wireless technology are now starting to provide equipment to solve the problem.

Due to the limitations of wireless, most IPTV service providers today use wired home networking technologies instead of wireless technologies like 802.11. Service Providers such as AT&T (which makes extensive use of wireline home networking as part of its U-Verse IPTV service) have expressed support for the work done in this direction by ITU-T, which has adopted Recommendation (also known as G.9960), which is a next generation home networking standard that specifies a common PHY/MAC that can operate over any home wiring (power lines, phone lines or coaxial cables).


The latency inherent in the use of satellite internet is often held up as reason why satellites cannot be successfully used for IPTV, but in practice latency is not an important factor for IPTV. An IPTV service does not require real-time transmission, as is the case with telephony or videoconferencing services.

It is the latency of response to requests to change channel, display an EPG, etc that most affects customers’ perceived quality of service, and these problems affect satellite IPTV no more than terrestrial IPTV. Indeed, command latency problems, faced by terrestrial IPTV networks with insufficient bandwidth as their customer base grows, may be solved by the high capacity of satellite distribution.

Satellite distribution does suffer from latency – the time for the signal to travel up from the hub to the satellite and back down to the user is around 0.25 seconds, and cannot be reduced. However, the effects of this delay are mitigated in real-life systems using data compression, TCP-acceleration, and HTTP pre-fetching.

Satellite latency can be detrimental to especially time-sensitive applications such as on-line gaming (although it only seriously affects the likes of first-person shooters while many MMOGs can operate well over satellite internet), but IPTV is typically a simplex operation (one-way transmission) and latency is not a critical factor for video transmission.

Existing video transmission systems of both analogue and digital formats already introduce known quantifiable delays. Indeed, existing DVB TV channels that simulcast by both terrestrial and satellite transmissions, experience the same 0.25s delay difference between the two services with no detrimental effect, and it goes unnoticed by viewers.

Privacy implications

Due to limitations in bandwidth, an IPTV channel is delivered to the user one at a time, as opposed to the traditional multiplexed delivery. Changing a channel requires requesting the head-end server to provide a different broadcast stream, much like VOD (For VOD the stream is delivered using Unicast, for the normal TV signal Multicast is used). This could enable the service provider to accurately track each and every programme watched and the duration of watching for each viewer, broadcasters and advertisers could then understand their audience and programming better with accurate data and targeted advertising.


A small number of companies supply most current IPTV systems. Some, such as Imagenio, were formed by telecoms operators themselves, to minimise external costs, a tactic also used by PCCW of Hong Kongmarker. Some major telecoms vendors are also active in this space, notably Alcatel-Lucent (sometimes working with Imagenio), Ericsson (notably since acquiring Tandberg Television), NEC, Thomson, and ZTE, as are some IT houses, led by Microsoft. California-based UTStarcom, Inc., Tennessee-based Worley Consulting, Tokyo-based The New Media Group and Oslo/Norway-based SnapTV also offer end-to-end networking infrastructure for IPTV-based services, and Hong Kong-based BNS Ltd. provides turnkey open platform IPTV technology solutions. Global sales of IPTV systems exceeded 2 billion USD in 2007.

Many of these IPTV solution vendors participated in the biennial Global MSF Interoperability 2008 (GMI) event which was coordinated by the MultiService Forum (MSF) at five sites worldwide from 20- to 31-October 2008. Test equipment vendors including Codenomicon, Empirix, Ixia, Mu Dynamics and Spirent joined solution vendors such as the companies listed above in one of the largest IPTV proving grounds ever deployed.

Service bundling

For residential users, IPTV is often provided in conjunction with Video on Demand and may be bundled with Internet services such as Internet access and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) telecommunications services. Commercial bundling of IPTV, VoIP and Internet access is sometimes referred to in marketing as triple play service. When these three are offered with mobility, the service may be referred to as quadruple play.

IPTV Regulation

Historically, broadcast television has been regulated differently than telecommunications. As IPTV allows TV and VoD to be transmitted over IP networks new regulatory issues arise.Professor Eli M. Noam highlights in his report "TV or Not TV: Three Screens, One Regulation?" some of the key challenges with sector specific regulation that is becoming obsolete due to convergence in this field.


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