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  Hardware for Three LTE (Band 20)
Posted by: opm - 09/03/2020, 09:17 PM - Forum: Mobile Broadband - Replies (1)

My friend living near Kilbrittain, Co. Cork wants to get mobile broadband into his outside office, which is at the edge of his farmyard.  From his upstairs bedroom window he can get 3 bars of 4G signal on his mobile phone when on the Three network.

I've had a quick look for him.  From his location the ComReg SiteViewer identifies 3 masts within 6km transmitting for Three Ireland:
• (~4.1km) Site ID: 3_CK0394, Operator: Three, Services: GSM, UMTS, LTE
          Site ID: THREE_CK0394, Operator: Three, Services: GSM
  (from house, mast is 15 degrees north of due east)

• (~4.7km) Site ID: 3_CK0386, Operator: Three, Services: GSM, UMTS, LTE
          Site ID: THREE_CK0386, Operator: Three, Services: GSM
  (from house, mast is 20 degrees west of due south)

• (~5.9km) Site ID: 3_CK0248, Operator: Three, Services: GSM, UMTS, LTE
          Site ID: THREE_CK0248, Operator: Three, Services: GSM, UMTS
  (from house, mast is 12 degrees south of due east)
This resource documents all three of those sites as having the following 'Band Plan' values in the last column:
 ○ "800MHz - LTE"
 ○ "900MHz - LTE"

This is confusing, as I thought that only 800MHz was being used by Three for 4G/LTE, with 900MHz providing 2G/3G ?

Putting that confusion aside, I don't see any 1800MHz transmission, and wasn't expecting it in that rural area, so 4G+ is not on the menu.

A county-Cork-based provider suggested the following kit to use the 800MHz transmission from Three:

• Poynting Xpol2 3G/4G Antenna - €150 (€121.95 + VAT)
• Teltonika Rut 250 Router - €145 (€117.89 + VAT)

I'd appreciate opinions on that Antenna and Router combo, and would love to hear from anyone with mobile broadband around Kilbrittain.

Thanks - opm

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  4G and 4G+ testing
Posted by: Seán - 03/03/2020, 04:11 PM - Forum: Mobile Broadband - Replies (175)

[This thread continues from a post deleted 23/01/2021 and has been closed]

I looked up the ComReg's mobile site licencing for those sites and both Three and Vodfaone have 4G+ on both sites:

Three (3_DO0071) 4G: 800MHz + 1800MHz.
Vodafone (DL058) 4G: 800MHz + 1800MHz.
Eir (DL_3175) No 4G.  3G on 900MHz band. 

Three (3_DO0183) 4G: 800MHz + 1800MHz
Vodafone (DLDLO) 4G: 800MHz + 1800MHz
Eir (DL_4084) No 4G.  3G on 900MHz band.

This means you could be using either mast. Smile  1800MHz has poor penetration, particularly if there's any obstruction such as vegetation in the line of sight.  With your router set to 1800MHz only, you can try tweaking your antenna to see if you can improve the RSRP figure as this will improve the upload speed on that band. 

The reason Three has two sites is that they use the former O2 spectrum for the 800MHz band.  ComReg shows them separately despite Three owning them.  With Vodafone and Meteor, the only way to tell is by looking up the site IDs in ComReg's mobile licensing documents.  

Going by your video and ping times, the 1800MHz band certainly has much less congestion and the pings appear more stable also.  The 800MHz band looks like it's maxed out with the RSRQ rarely dipping below -12dB. 

Going by your download speed, it looks like it's affected by Three's traffic shaping.  The Dutch Vultr site likely hosts CDN content as it gets priority, which you can test:

Both the UK and Dutch Vultr test pages usually deliver the same speed from testing over a Gigabit FTTH connection, typically 400 to 800Mbps. 

Most speed test sites make lots of parallel connections to the test server to try maxing out a connection.  They also try catching what the speed gets up to (e.g. Ookla's Speedtest.net and Neflix's FAST.com).  Great for finding out what a connection gets up to, but not great for troubleshooting streaming, downloading, etc. that usually transfers over a single TCP connection with the server.

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  Simply broadband 4G & Fritzbox LTE modem
Posted by: kriebie - 25/02/2020, 06:39 PM - Forum: Mobile Broadband - Replies (16)

Hi Sean,

I was wondering if you (or someone else) would be able to tell me if Vodafone's "Simply broadband 4G" SIM will work in my Fritzbox 6840LTE modem/router. I want to keep this box functional for several reasons, most importantly the DECT telephony system.

The background for this question is, that I have been in a Vodafone store to enquire about the (predecessor of) this 4G home broadband package, to which I wanted to upgrade from my existing "Red MBB Super" plan, as the data cap becomes tighter and tighter every month.
However that would require using their modem (which I did not want to use), and consequently a new contract.
Basically they did not want, or were not able to upgrade my existing plan, and I was put in contact over the phone with an advisor. This guy insisted that my existing modem would not work (he even "guaranteed" as much), and when I tried to figure out why that would be problematic, considering I had a working connection already, he answered that "something" had to be changed in their "back end". Not really the most useful answer...

So I hope that someone just can confirm that the Vodafone "Simply broadband 4G" SIM will or won't work in a third party LTE modem. So far I have not been able to find the answer.

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  FreeDAB Sligo signal near Kilcar with sensitive DAB radio
Posted by: Seán - 03/02/2020, 01:44 PM - Forum: General - Replies (1)

With no sign of RTÉ ever bringing DAB to our area now that they are ceasing their DAB service, I was interested in seeing what else I could pick up on DAB. 

From testing various areas between Carrick and Letterkenny (Co. Donegal) with the most sensitive DAB radio I have, I pick up the Northern Ireland DAB muxes in several areas.  These areas include between Kilcar and Killybegs where there is clear view of Donegal Bay, Dunkineely down to the 80km/h speed limit signs, from about the Toyota dealer to the bottom of the Mountcharles bypass and then from about the picnic park in the Barnesmore Gap all the way into Letterkenny.

With new FreeDAB transmitter broadcasting in Sligo on mux 7D, I pick it up between Kilcar and Killybegs where there is clear view of Donegal bay.  I will test from Killybegs to Donegal and further at a later stage.  In addition, I pick it up in one spot at home with a sensitive radio.  This is despite being in a mobile phone signal blackspot and very weak Saorview reception.  I don't pick up the Northern Ireland DAB muxes at home, at least not yet. Wink


The radio I'm picking these up on is a RECA model 80923, purchased at ALDI.  I own multiple DAB radios and tried many others, but this is by far the most sensitive DAB radio I've come across.  Unusually for a DAB radio, it is very sensitive even on FM.  In areas with the above signal reading, no other DAB radio I have with a signal meter will show a single dot in the same spot.   

I can also pick up this FreeDAB mux at home with an RTL-SDR 2838U USB stick, using a 5 element DAB antenna:


The FreeDAB radio stations I pick up on mux 7D are as follows:

  • Classic Gold - DAB+ 48 kHz Stereo @ 64kbps
  • Coast FM - DAB 48 kHz Stereo @ 192kbps
  • Coast Rock - No sound
  • Energy 80's - No sound
  • ENERGY FM - DAB 48 kHz Stereo @ 192kbps
  • Kiss Cork - No sound
  • Radio New Poland - DAB+ 32 kHz Stereo @ 48kbps
  • Radio Sylvia - DAB+ 32 kHz Stereo @ 48 Kbps
  • Real Radio - No sound
  • Soul City - No sound
  • STORM - DAB+ 48 kHz Stereo @ 48kbps
The "No sound" means there is no audio with this station, likely due to being off-air.  I will retest these at a later stage and also looking to get hold of another identical radio to mod with an antenna socket.

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  Setting up the TP-Link Archer MR600 with GoMo / Eir simplicity
Posted by: Seán - 03/02/2020, 12:14 PM - Forum: Mobile Broadband - Replies (8)

The TP-Link 4G routers are popular alternatives to the Huawei mobile broadband routers, mainly due to their low cost.

While they are preconfigured to work with most mobile broadband SIMs, this configuration will not work with many voice SIMs as most mobile providers use a different APN for voice SIMs.  With GoMo and Eir simplicity, their 4G network requires the correct APN and the SIM PIN set.

If you have an unlocked mobile phone handy, I recommend putting the SIM card into it to remove the SIM PIN (Andriod Settings -> Security -> Advanced -> SIM Card lock), then make sure the SIM's data works fine on the phone before placing in the router.
These steps are based on helping a few people out who asked for help on my blog:

  1. Log into your TP-LINK router web interface.
  2. Go into the Advanced tab at the top.
  3. If you disabled the SIM PIN using a mobile phone, skip to step 7.
  4. On the left, go into Network -> Pin Management
  5. Tick both 'PIN Lock' and 'Auto-unlock PIN:'
  6. Enter your SIM pin # and click 'Save'.
  7. On the left, go into Network -> Internet
  8. Click 'Create Profile' at the bottom.
  9. Enter the following:
    Profile name: GoMo Internet
    PDP Type: IPv4
    APN Type: Static
    APN: data.mymeteor.ie
    Username & Password: (Leave blank)
    Authentication Type: None
    Click 'OK'
  10. In the Profile Name drop-down, choose "GoMo Internet"
  11. Click 'Save'.
Please note that the APN settings are only for connecting to data.  If the router is having rouble with getting a signal or is not switching to 4G mode, then this is a coverage or interference issue.

If the above settings still do not connect, try following the steps above again, but enter "data.myeirmobile.ie" for the APN field in step 9.

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  VoIP experience over 4G, having cut the phone line
Posted by: Seán - 31/01/2020, 12:39 PM - Forum: Mobile Broadband - Replies (5)

After using Three's mobile broadband for a while, I decided to port my landline over to VoIP back around February 2018.  At the time, I had a 5Mb DSL connection (3.9Mbps on speed tests).  As the DSL service was practically useless for working from home (due to the 0.4Mbps uplink) and we were mainly using Three for several months, I decided to finally disconnect the landline.  While the package I was on was reasonably priced for a landline package (€45/month for anytime calls and DSL), the additional €30/month for Three brought my total cost to €75/month.  Additional calls (to USA) often added a further €10 to the phone bill.

Before moving to VoIP, I obviously wanted to make sure there was going to be no issue with voice quality.  I had a spare Linksys PAP2T adapter from using Blueface several years ago.  As Blueface no longer does home phone packages, I decided to order a single line on Goldfish.  While they mainly target the business market also, it was very straight forward to order a number.  As they mainly deal with business customers where voice quality is obviously critical, it meant that any sound quality issue would very unlikely be at their end.

I configured the PAP2T adapter with my Goldfish account settings, plugged a spare DECT phone into it and tried making a few test calls.  Even during peak time, the call quality was as good as the landline and had no issue with incoming calls either.  After trying the service for a few weeks, I decided I'll stay with Goldfish and ported my landline phone number over. 

My previous provider was Digiweb.  I decided to keep the Fritz Box and reconfigured it for Goldfish to use in place of the PAP2T.  This had the advantage of being able to use its features.  I connected its WAN port to the Huawei B525, set it up as a cable router and have most of our Wi-Fi devices connected to it.  After I ported the landline over, I had to contact Digiweb to cancel the DSL service as it became a DSL-only package after I ported the landline away.  With some landline package providers such as Eir, porting the landline automatically disconnects any DSL service also.

After two years using VoIP, the only main issue I ran into is that when the Internet is down (4G mast down or power cut), so to is the VoIP.  I also had the occasional issue where an erratic Internet connection (e.g. Three network issue) would cause voice break-ups, but this is to be expected.  On the other hand, we found VoIP no less reliable than the old landline.  With the old landline, we had days where the line was very crackly or where calls couldn't get through in or out. 

As the Fritz Box functions as a DECT base unit, it provides a few nice features most home phone lines lack, such as simultaneous call handling.  For example, if someone is on the phone and another call comes in, the rest of the phones will ring and someone else can answer.  Similarly, someone could pick up another phone to call out also.  This multiple call handling likely depends on the VoIP provider, however, I can confirm this works with Goldfish.  

While Goldfish does not do cheap call bundles like most discount VoIP providers do, paying by the minute is not as expensive as it may seem.  We use the landline just as much as before and our average bill from Goldfish is around €10 to €15, inclusive of the €6.15 monthly fee.  Adding on Three broadband brings our total to around €40 to €45 a month.  An evening time landline call is 1c+VAT/min, so even a 30 minute call is only 37c.  30 minutes of evening calls every day of the month would only add up to €11.  We also saved on calling the USA as those are 1.2c+VAT/month.  Mobile calls are expensive (10c+VAT/min), however, a cheap workaround here is to call from a mobile instead. 

Whenever fibre reaches our area, I intend keeping the VoIP service, the main reason being that I can use any router.  For example, Vodafone does not provide VoIP settings to let one use anther router or VoIP device with their phone service.  However, if the phone service is with another VoIP provider, all that's needed to use another router is the Internet settings, usually just configuring the VLAN ID to 10 on the new router.

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  Powering your router from a power bank during a power cut
Posted by: Seán - 31/01/2020, 10:03 AM - Forum: Mobile Broadband - No Replies

Unlike portable hotspots, mains powered mobile broadband devices do not have a battery.  This means during a power cut, the Internet goes down.  While this is not an issue for most people in strong signal areas who can tether their phone's data, those in rural areas are effectively cut off untli the power comes back on.

All the major Huawei routers run on 12V with a standard DC jack that has a positive '+' tip.  Power banks have a 5v output, which is too low.  As surprising as it may sound, most 12V broadband routers will operate fine on 5V.  Huawei routers will power up on 5V, but generally get stuck on a page saying the phone is off hook, even when nothing is plugged in its telephone jack.

To power a Huawei router from a power bank, it needs a 12V step-up converter.  These leads have a USB plug on one end and a DC 5.5mm x 2.1mm jack on the other and are available for around €1.50 to €5 on eBay, Amazon and AliExpress.

For this to work, the power bank needs to provide at least 2.1A, which many of the larger ones do.  The step-up converter leads only provide around 700-800mA at 12V, however, this is usually sufficient as long as there are no USB devices plugged into the router.  Once the router fully boots, its power consumption drops to around 300-400mA.  This in turn draws about 1A from the power bank.

With a fully charged power bank, the runtime is roughly the power bank's mAh capacity divided by 2000.  For example, a 10,000mAh power bank will power the router for at least 5 hours.  With a good qualtiy power bank, this may go further such as 7-8 hours.  For powering additional equipment such as a VoIP adapter, I recommend running it off a separate power bank and also check the voltage they require.  Some equipment may not work, such as most Panasonic Dect phones, which use a proprietary 5.5v power supply. 

For those that regularly get power outages, I suggest getting a dedicated 12V UPS power supply for the router.  This will keep the router powered from the moment the power cut starts and will automatically recharge once the power is restored.

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  Use TestMy for download speed diagnostics
Posted by: Seán - 23/01/2020, 02:54 PM - Forum: Mobile Broadband - No Replies

Anyone that gets a chance to test a high speed Internet connection will almost certainly head to Ookla's Speedtest.net or use their app to test the speed.  With fixed line services such as VDSL, cable and Fibre, that link (if working properly) is generally capable of delivering what Ookla reports. 

To reduce the chance of non-network related activity such as high CPU usage or the Antivirus buffering and releasing data during analysis affecting the speed, Ookla's methodology has a few tricks.  It filters out a portion of the slowest part of the test as well as any brief spike, then averages the rest.  It also makes lots of simultaneous connections to the test server to get the peak speed.

That methodology may make sense with a Gigabit and fast cable connections to see what they can get up to, like speed testing a car.  However, when it comes to erratic connections such as cellular data and even Wi-Fi, filtering out throughput dips can lead to test results much higher than what the link is capable of sustaining.

To demonstrate this, I purchased the Internet Speed Meter App that shows a real time traffic graph in MB/s.  After running multiple speed tests with the Ookla Speedtest App and on TestMy, these are the results chosen when the link throughput was erratic.  I drew in the blue (download) and red (upload) lines, which correspond to the test result in MB/s.  As TestMy runs upload and download tests separately, this screenshot only contains the download test:


While the left connection throughput clearly got up to the results shown, it certainly did not sustain either the upload or download speed during the test.  Basically, Speedtest shows what the connection throughput gets up to, not measure what the connection can realistically deliver. It's much like how getting up to 50km/h in rush hour traffic does not mean you will drive 50km in an hour.

TestMy uses a very simple methodology.  It times how long a known block size takes to download or upload and calculates the result.  This gives a much more realistic test result on erratic connections, particularly when testing with a large block size.  This is much like timing how long it takes to drive a mile in rush hour traffic instead of seeing what your speedometer gets up to.

With the blue line I drew in on the right representing 22.8Mbps (2.85MB/s), the graph area above the line would fill the gaps below the line.  At this time of testing, this is the actual download speed the connection was capable of sustaining.  Had I ran Speedtest at that time, it probably would have given around 30Mbps based on what the throughout got up to.  

TestMy can also run Multithread tests for testing the capacity, however, I recommend sticking with the regular Linear test, particularly during times of congestion.  For example, if TestMy cannot deliver 5Mbps with a large block size, don’t expect to be able to stream at 5Mbps minimum.

When testing on the Three network, it’s also worth testing for traffic shaping as explained here.

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  Testing for suspect traffic shaping / throttling
Posted by: Seán - 22/01/2020, 01:05 PM - Forum: Mobile Broadband - Replies (6)

Every mobile network mast has an uplink to provide connectivity to that mast in much the same way as any telephone exchange.  Many rural masts get their connectivity over a microwave wireless link to another mast.  Masts in areas with good fibre infrastructure may get their connectivity over fibre and some also provide microwave connectivity to the rural masts. 

While a microwave link can provide plenty of capacity for the nodes of a single mast, some masts may be fed off a hierarchy or mesh of other masts with microwave links.  This can lead to severe congestion upstream such as with the main fibre connection if it does not have enough capacity.  This can lead to even quiet masts experiencing poor throughput. 

Some ISPs (particularly mobile data) appear to use traffic shaping in many areas where BBR enabled hosts such as Content Delivery Networks (CDN) get priority over other types of traffic.  This is particularly noticeable in rural areas that face high network contention.  One good example of this is where general web browsing and downloading is incredibly slow while at the same time YouTube plays Full HD (1080p) on some videos without a glitch. This is due to Google using the BBR congestion control with its hosts (which Google developed), whereas most hosts use another TCP congestion control such as CUBIC.

In the past, Three did traffic shaping by port #.  This led to the popular Ookla Speed test delivering 20Mbps+ test results when many websites were taking 10 times longer to open pages than on a 5Mbps DSL connection.  Back then it was also possible to exploit this traffic prioritisation by making a VPN connection over port 8008, which Ookla uses.  Three no longer prioritises by port # from what I can tell.   

Testing for suspect traffic shaping

As hosts using the TCP BBR congestion control appear to escape the suspect traffic shaping, testing simply involves downloading a test file from a known fast host and then from a host that appears to use TCP BBR.   If the ISP does not have traffic shaping and there is no peering issues along the route to the host, then both files should download at roughly the same speed.

Test #1 – Heatnet vs Fosshub

Heanet’s servers are fed by multiple 10Gbps links, so any congestion is very unlikely at that end. As they are based in Dublin, all peering should occur within Ireland.  Fosshub on the other hand uses Cloudflare as its CDN, which uses the BBR congestion control. 

Compare the download speed of Kodi 64-bit from Heanet and Fosshub:

Test #2 – Leaseweb vs Vultr

The Leaseweb hosting provider has test files up to 10GB in the Netherlands (when testing from Ireland), but the host serving its test files do not appear to be TCP BBR enabled.  The Vultr hosting provider also has test files, which appear to be BBR enabled. 

Time how long it takes to download the 100MB file from the the Leaseweb and either Vultr host:

If there is no noticeable difference between the Leaseweb and Vultr NL speed, try comparing the two DE test files.

Test #3 - Measurement Labs ndt7 (TCP BBR) vs TestMy

This is an alternate test to #3 for those that don't have a TestMy account. Measurement Labs runs its speed test over a single connection with the test server, much like TestMy. This is different to speedtest.net, fast.com, etc. that make lots of simultaneous connections.

The Google Internet Speed Test and Measurement Labs website have since switched to M-Lab's speed test ndt7, which uses the TCP BBR protocol. From my testing, both use the same test server. Measurements Labs has the advantage of showing the loss %, indicating packet loss. TestMy does not use TCP BBR for the London server.

Test #4 – TestMy London vs Colorado servers (See update below)

With most Irish ISPs the London server generally performs much better than the Colorado Springs server. This makes sense as Colorado Springs is in the centre of the United States. However, this TestMy host is using TCP BBR, whereas the others use another TCP congestion control algorithm. (Previously the Los Angeles server in Canada appeared to be BBR enabled, but no longer is)

TestMy simulates an actual file download by timing how long it takes to download a known block size into the browser's cache, making it a useful test on phones where it's difficult to time a file download. Don't confuse it with the popular Ookla or Fast speed tests which use very different test methodologies to determine what the connection's speed currently gets up to.

Note: Someone pointed out to me that the Colorado Springs server is only accessible while logged into TestMy. Otherwise it tests against Dallas, which is not BBR enabled.

These two links are set up to immediately start a 25MB download test against the London and Colorado Springs (Log in before testing): The following are test result examples on Three on the 4G+ mast I pick up from home – London vs Colorado Springs:

[Image: st1BtFtrV.png] [Image: YXZhdm1L2.png]

The Three 4G+ mast I pick up here very rarely seldom gets over 40Mbps on the London server even early in the morning, yet the Colorado Springs server often gets over 60Mbps even at peak time!

The Three mast in Donegal town (Abbey Hotel) does not appear to be affected. With line of sight of the mast, I regularly get over 100Mbps, sometimes approaching 180Mbps with the London server:

[Image: 06-Grus_w.png]

Update 25 Aug '20: I moved the TestMy test down as the Colorado Springs test server is currently only available to members logged in. I added a second Vultr test link as Three does not always prioritise the Dutch test links.

Update 3rd December 2020: I have since revised this post as it's clearly not the ISPs prioritising specific hosts or IP ranges that I thought previously, but instead influenced by the choice of the TCP congestion control algorithm.

Update 25th March 2021: The Measurement Labs website has since switched to the BBR TCP congestion protocol, so I updated its test and moved it to #4.

Update 29th June 2021: TestMy appears to have removed BBR on its Colorado Springs server and does not appear to have any other BBR enabled server at this time.

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  How to add a custom URL to a Roberts Stream Internet radio after May 2019
Posted by: Seán - 21/01/2020, 08:06 PM - Forum: Equipment and Software - No Replies

Around mid 2019 Roberts switched from WiFiradio-Frontier to a new database service, which appears to be Frontier Nuvola Smart Radio.  This caused everyone's radios linked with the old provider to lose their presets, favourites and custom radio station streams.

According to Roberts' Radio FAQs, their radio station database partner does not support adding favourites or custom URLs.  However, from my testing with the Roberts Stream 83i and the Stream 93i, it is possible to add streams through Frontier's Nuvola Smart Radio website.

In order to set up favourites or custom URLs, you will need to first create a new account on their website:

1. Once you sign in, click the large "Connect new device" button.
2. On your Roberts radio, press the menu button, go into System Settings -> Info. 
3. Scroll down to "Radio ID" and type it into this field along with a name and click 'Connect device':


4. Go into "Favourites" (1), click "Personal Streams" (2) and click the "Personal Stream" button (3):


5. Enter the Station Title (1), the stream URL (2), tick "Shared Favourites" (3) and "Save Personal Stream":


Note: Be sure to click "Shared Favourites" (3) shown above, otherwise it will not appear on the radio.  If this happens, go into Favourites -> Personal Streams, click the edit icon to the right of the affected stream and tick the "Shared Favourites" check box. 

To access the stations on the radio, go into its menu, then Station list -> My Added Stations:


If you use the UNDOK app, you can access these by going into Browse -> My added Stations.

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