Hutch Review: Sri Lanka’s Most Disappointing SIM Card

4.0 rating
Adu from Phone Travel Wiz holding a Hutch SIM Card

Sri Lanka is a popular travel destination because of its location, nature, and affordability. Whether you plan on staying in Colombo or explore the jungle in the middle of nowhere, there is something for every type of traveler in Sri Lanka.

You will want to share your amazing Sri Lanka experiences on the web, and you would need a Sri Lankan SIM card for that. Sure, you could roam with your provider in Sri Lanka, but roaming can be expensive in many cases, which is why many travelers prefer to buy a local SIM card, such as a Sri Lankan one.

Moreover, mobile data rates are low in Sri Lanka compared to (South) Asian standards and the world's average.

With that said, you are interested in buying a SIM card in Sri Lanka and want to know what provider is the best. I had the same question, so I went to Colombo, Sri Lanka, and bought all Sri Lankan SIM cards, including Hutch, besides Dialog, Mobitel, and Airtel Sri Lanka, and tested them.

Let's see how my experience with Hutch was, and how your experience could be when visiting Sri Lanka. Let's get started.

Telecom Providers in Sri Lanka

Before I talk about Hutch, I need to inform you about your options in Sri Lanka. If you have read my Buying a SIM Card in Sri Lanka Guide, then you know what Sri Lanka has 4 Telecom Providers: Dialog, Mobitel, Hutch, and Airtel Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka has no (prepaid) Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs), which makes it easy to select a SIM card for your adventure in the country.

Hutch Logo

Hutch is the third-largest operator in Sri Lanka. They bought Etisalat Sri Lanka in April 2018 and finalized the transaction in November 2018. With this acquisition, Hutch aims to compete with Dialog, the market leader, and Mobitel, by having a larger and better network than before the acquisition.

Although Hutch has a 4G/LTE network, they throttle speeds to 3 Mbps for unknown reasons. This affects the maximum speed you can have with Hutch.

With that out of the way, let’s see what Hutch has to offer to us.

Hutch Video Review

Want to watch the Hutch video review? You bet! Check the video down below, and make sure to subscribe!

How do I Buy a Hutch Prepaid SIM Card?

You can buy a Hutch SIM card at any Hutch shop or from select retailers. Hutch also has a booth at Colombo Airport (Bandaranayake International Airport). When I was there, they only sold the most expensive plans. I do not recall whether they were tourist plans or just a selection of costly plans.

I decided to buy my Hutch SIM card at a Hutch store so that I had the freedom to select the plan I want.

In Sri Lanka, you have to show your passport and register it with the provider. When you buy your SIM card at a Hutch store, the salesperson will handle all of this for you, but you do have to bring your passport with you if you intend to buy a Sri Lankan SIM card.

The Hutch store looked rather modern if I have to be honest. The employees were friendly, and there was someone opening the door for you before going. I am not sure if the quality of service is this top-notch throughout Sri Lanka – perhaps only in Colombo. Either way, the customer service aspect was on point.

Hutch SIM cards are actually given for free, but it is expected that you at least buy credit or a plan upon activation. If you decide on getting a plan, well, be prepared.

Hutch SIM Card

At the time of getting my Hutch SIM card, they had 32 different data packages, grouped into 10 categories. I am all for choice, but there is a certain limit to it. Some of the plans shown on the leaflet are not available anymore or have been renamed. Now, you can choose from 48 different packages. Let’s just say that the perfect plan for you should be available.

Hutch data package list from February 2020

I decided to go for the 198 LKR plan that comes with 1.5 GB daytime data and 1 GB nighttime data, which was valid for 30 days.

One thing Sri Lankan operators like to do is to split your data allowance into groups. Some have anytime data, which can be used whenever, others have daytime data, nighttime data, and even 4G bonus data, which can only be used on the 4G/LTE network.

Personally, I am not a fan of this system. I like to have the freedom to use my data whenever I want instead of having to worry about how much anytime/daytime/nighttime/4G data I have. What I would not mind is that you get a bonus, let’s say extra MB/GB for during the night.

With my 198 LKR Value Internet plan, daytime data could be used whenever, whereas nighttime data was to be used between 12 AM to 9 AM.

Hutch SIM Card

The Day Time Blast Internet plans, however, have daytime restrictions from 12 AM until 6 PM. This is something to be aware of when buying a Hutch plan, but the restrictions will clearly be mention when I discuss the data packages Hutch offers.

Back to Hutch, once the registration has been successful, you can use your SIM card instantly. You may have to restart your phone, though.

Hutch SIM Card activation SMS

How do I Activate my Hutch SIM Card?

The Hutch salesperson will activate your SIM card upon purchase and registration. Remember to bring your passport with you if you decide to buy a SIM card in town instead of at the airport.

Hutch SIM Card activation SMS

What Prepaid Packages does Hutch Offer, and How do I Activate one?

As mentioned earlier, Hutch has many types of plans to choose from, and they change frequently. There was a delay of 3 months before I wrote this review, and the number of plans has changed quite a bit within those 3 months.

I will, however, try my best to keep the plans and prices up to date, but the Buying a SIM Card in Sri Lanka Guide will have the most up-to-date prices. Otherwise, check the Hutch website.

Hutch has the following 9 types of prepaid plans:

  • Any Time Plans
  • Pocket Internet
  • Value Mega Internet
  • Day & Night Internet
  • Non Stop Internet
  • CliQ Break Free Internet
  • Ghost Internet
  • 2G Internet Packs
  • Unlimited YouTube

Let’s of through each one of them.

Hutch Any Time Plans

Hutch’s Any Time Plans do not have any data allowance restrictions. They can be used at any time. All plans can be activated by dialing *131#. However, some plans can be activated by texting an activation code to 101 or by reloading a specific amount. Dial *344# to check your balance.

The following 7 Hutch Any Time Plans are available:

PriceDataValidityActivation
47 LKR600 MB5 DaysText i47 to 101 or reload 47 LKR
97 LKR1.3 GB10 daysText i97 to 101 or reload 97 LKR
197 LKR3 GB21 daysText i197 to 101 or reload 197 LKR
297 LKR4.7 GB30 daysText i297 to 101
497 LKR8.2 GB30 daysText i497 to 101
647 LKR12 GB30 daysText i697 to 101
997 LKR20 GB30 daysText i997 to 101

Hutch Pocket Internet Plans

Hutch’s Pocket Internet plans are their short-term plans that come with a limited data allowance. They come in 4 variants:

PriceDataValidityExtraActivation
3 LKR24 MBUntil midnightNoneDial *131*3*1#, text i3 to 101, or reload 3 LKR
14 LKR95 MB2 daysNoneDial *131*3*2#, text i14 to 101, or reload 14 LKR
29 LKR160 MB3 days100 on-net SMSDial *131*3*3#, text i29 to 101, or reload 29 LKR
89 LKR720 MB14 daysNoneDial *131*3*5#, text i89 to 101, or reload 89 LKR

Hutch Value Mega Internet Plans

Need a lot of data? Then Hutch’ Value Mega Internet plans may be for you. These plans come with anytime data (24 hours) and nighttime data (from 12 AM to 9 AM). 1 plan also comes with airtime. The following 4 Value Mega Internet plans are available:

PriceDataValidityExtraActivation
195 LKR900 MB30 days100 LKR airtimeDial *131*3*7#, text i195 to 101, or reload 195 LKR
998 LKR18.5 GB (12.5 GB anytime & 6 GB night)30 daysNoneDial *131*6*12#, text i998 to 101, or reload 998 LKR
1690 LKR34 GB (24 GB anytime & 10 GB night45 daysNoneDial *131*6*13#, text i1690 to 101, or reload 1690 LKR
2490 LKR46 GB (36 GB anytime & 10 GB night)45 daysNoneDial *131*3*15#, text i2490 to 101, or reload 2490 LKR

Hutch Day & Night Internet

Hutch has a plan called Day & Night Internet that is like the Value Mega Internet plans, as they come with daytime data (read: anytime data) and nighttime data (from 12 AM to 9 AM). The main difference between Value Mega Data and Day & Night is that the data allowances of the Day & Night plans are smaller.

The following 9 Hutch Day & Night Internet plans can be purchased:

PriceDataValidityActivation
6 LKR85 MB (40 MB anytime & 45 MB night)2 daysDial *131*6*1#, text i6 to 101, or reload 6 LKR
18 LKR240 MB (140 MB anytime & 100 MB night)4 daysDial *131*6*2#, text i18 to 101, or reload 18 LKR
39 LKR300 MB (245 MB anytime & 55 MB night)7 daysDial *131*6*6#, text i39 to 101, or reload 39 LKR
48 LKR510 MB (360 MB anytime & 150 MB night)7 daysDial *131*6*3#, text i48 to 101, or reload 48 LKR
99 LKR1.3 GB (770 MB anytime & 550 MB night)14 daysDial *131*6*4#, text i99 to 101, or reload 99 LKR
198 LKR2.7 GB (1.7 GB anytime & 1 GB night)30 daysDial *131*6*7#, text i198 to 101, or reload 198 LKR
290 LKR5.5 GB (3 GB anytime & 2.5 GB night)30 daysDial *131*6*8#, text i290 to 101, or reload 290 LKR
490 LKR11 GB (6 GB anytime & 5 GB night)45 daysDial *131*6*9#, text i490 to 101, or reload 490 LKR
649 LKR14.7 GB (7.7 GB anytime & 7 GB night)45 daysDial *131*6*10#, text i649 to 101, or reload 649 LKR

Hutch Non Stop Internet Plans

Hutch has several Non Stop Internet plans, which come with unlimited data for a select period, that come in 3 variants: anytime, off peak, and ghost. Anytime Non Stop Internet plans can be used whenever you want. Off Peak Non Stop Internet plans can be used at night between 1 AM to 6 PM, and the Ghost Non Stop Internet plan can be used between 2 AM and 6 AM.

The following 8 Hutch Non Stop Internet plans are available:

PriceNon Stop Internet TypeValidityActivation
19 LKROff Peak1 hourDial *131*7*2*4# or text ti19 to 101
25 LKRAnytime1 hourDial *131*7*1*1# or text pti25 to 101
25 LKROff Peak2 hoursDial *131*7*2*1# or text ti25 to 101
45 LKRAnytime2 hoursDial *131*7*1*2# or text pti45 to 101
45 LKROff Peak4 hoursDial *131*7*2*3# or text ti45 to 101
70 LKRAnytime5 hoursDial *131*7*1*3# or text pti70 to 101
70 LKROff Peak10 hoursDial *131*7*2*3# or text ti70 to 101
299 LKRGhost7 daysDial *131*7*3*1# or text i299 to 101

Hutch/cliQ Break Free Internet Plans

What is cliQ then? The cliQ Break Free Internet plans are another type of unlimited internet plan. These plans have to be purchased on the cliQ app, whereas the Non Stop internet plans can be activated by dialing a USSD code or texting the activation code to 101. cliQ is available on Android and iOS.

cliQ plans are restricted to 3 Mbps. Hutch, however, claims that all their plans are limited to 3 Mbps (but the speed test results may show you otherwise). I am not sure if these speeds are actually throttled to 3 Mbps because cliQ was not a thing when I was in Sri Lanka. Once you have gone over your Fair-Use Policy (FUP) limit, your speed will be reduced to 1 Mbps.

The following 10 cliQ Break Free Internet plans are available:

PriceFUPValidity
14 LKR0.35 GB15 minutes
20 LKR0.35 GB30 minutes
25 LKR0.35 GB1 hour
40 LKR1.5 GB4 hours
65 LKR1.5 GB1 day
120 LKR3.5 GB2 days
298 LKR6 GB7 days
398 LKR6 GB10 days
497 LKR15 GB15 days
998 LKR30 GB30 days

Hutch Ghost Plans

Mainly active at night as a night owl? Hutch has 4 Ghost Plans that are data packs that can be used between 2 AM and 6 AM:

PriceDataValidityActivation
45 LKR2.4 GB3 daysDial *131*7*4*1#, text i45 to 101, or reload 45 LKR
75 LKR4.8 GB7 daysDial *131*7*4*2#, text i75 to 101, or reload 75 LKR
175 LKR12 GB15 daysDial *131*7*4*3#, text i175 to 101, or reload 175 LKR
299 LKRUnlimited (between 1 AM and 6 AM)7 daysDial *131*7*3*1# ortext i299 to 101

If you buy the same Ghost Internet pack 3 times within 15 days, then you will get the 4 pack for free. The 4th pack can be the 45 LKR, 75 LKR, and 175 LKR packs but not the 299 LKR pack.

Hutch 2G Internet Packs

Hutch also has 2G Internet Packs. Unless you do not have a smartphone, there is no need to browse the web at 2G speeds, which is 100 Kbps, because it is frustratingly slow. You better not load a site with a lot of visuals because it will take ages to load.

The only pro of these plans is that they come with a generous data allowance for the price you pay. Then again, speeds will be extremely slow.

PriceDataValidityExtraActivation
49 LKR1.2 GB30 daysNoneDial 131*8*1#, text i49 to 102, or reload 49 LKR
149 LKR1.2 GB30 days100 LKR airtimeDial 131*8*2#, text i149 to 102, or reload 149 LKR

Hutch Unlimited YouTube Pack

Finally, you have the Hutch Unlimited YouTube pack, which is a pack that comes with genuinely unlimited YouTube video streaming for 147 LKR (30 days – activation: dial *131# or text i147 to 102). Video streaming will, however, be at standard definition quality (480p).

Although you can manually change your video quality to better quality, Hutch claims that you will experience buffering more frequently. Moreover, this plan works the best on phones with a screens size of 5 inches or smaller. If you have a larger device, then you will experience more buffering as well.

What Speeds Will I Get with Hutch in Sri Lanka?

I did 4 speed tests when I was in Sri Lanka: 3 in Colombo itself and in an area near Colombo called Labugama where I was enjoying a secret waterfall. In Colombo, I did a speed test at my Airbnb (Colombo 5), at a Bubble Tea place called Bubble Me Bubble Tea (Colombo 5), and Colombo International Airport.

Hutch Speed test in Colombo
Speed test in a Bubble Tea shop in Colombo (5)
Hutch Speed test in Labugama
Speed test in Labugama
Hutch Speed test in Colombo
Speed test in my Airbnb in Colombo (5)
Hutch Speed test at Colombo Airport
Speed test at Colombo Airport

These are the types of speeds I would expect when using a 3G network. In most cases, I was using Hutch 4G/LTE network when doing these speed tests. The only place where I had 3G was when I was in Labugama. That waterfall was in a remote area, so I actually was not expecting any coverage there if I have to be honest.

Remember when I said that Hutch claims to throttle all speeds to a maximum of 3 Mbps? That may be the reason why the speeds are so disappointing, even though I was using Hutch’ 4G/LTE network.

With these speeds, except for the Labugama one, you can comfortably browse the web. Streaming HD videos could result in buffering, though.

Do I Recommend Hutch to Travelers Visiting Sri Lanka?

I would recommend Hutch to those visiting Sri Lanka. Hutch’s speeds may not be the best compared to other Sri Lankan operators, but the packages they offer are extensive.

That brings me to another point. Do we need that many packages? I mentioned earlier that I am all for choice because having a restrictive selection will do nobody good. But having 48 different packages, grouped in 9 categories may be a bit overkill. I know that it took me a while to choose a data pack. At least the salespeople at Hutch were not pushing me to buy an expensive plan, which was nice.

One thing that I do not like with Sri Lankan operators is that data allowances are sometimes split into anytime/day data and nighttime data. If I buy a data plan that comes with 5 GB, then I want to use the 5 GB whenever I want, regardless of the time of the day. Luckily, a lot of Hutch’ plans that have daytime allowances can be used all day, and they even have Any Time plans that do not have these different categories.

Another thing I was ABSOLUTELY not a fan of is the amount of SMS spam you get from the Sri Lankan operators. I did not get that many from Hutch. In fact, I got the least from Hutch, but it was annoying. Some even send you USSD/system messages that look like this.

If I recall correctly, Hutch did not do this (unlike Airtel Sri Lanka that sent AT LEAST 10 a DAY), but this is something to be aware of when having a Sri Lankan SIM card.

The customer service experience at the Hutch store was excellent. I loved how I got assisted quickly and then everything got explained in detail for the questions I asked. Back then, I was not aware of the speed limit Hutch imposes. If I did, I would have asked them about it.

Coverage with Hutch was also quite good, even outside of Colombo. Sure, Hutch’ coverage is not as excellent as the ones of Dialog or Mobitel, but it is still good. I am, however, not sure if I would recommend Hutch to those exploring many parts of Sri Lanka, those who go up in the mountains, or into forests. You would be better off with Dialog or Mobitel for those cases. For anything else, Hutch could be a cheaper alternative to the two big operators, while offering a large number of packages.

Based on all these experiences, I believe that Hutch deserves a rating of 4 out of 5 stars. Hutch is good, but some flaws make Hutch not great nor excellent. Even then, your experience with Hutch should be good.

Best International SIM Cards for Sri Lanka

Even though buying local SIM cards is often the cheapest way to stay connected while abroad, some travelers prefer to buy international SIM cards so that they do not have to pay expensive roaming bills while being reachable on one phone number.

There are many international SIM cards out there covering Sri Lanka, but there are 4 international SIM cards I would recommend for Sri Lanka.

TrueMove H Smart Light SIM Cards

TrueMove H is a Thai operator that is known for offering attractive international roaming packages for in the Asia Pacific region and for affordable international SIM cards, like their Smart SIM cards. TrueMove H has 1 SIM card that covers Sri Lanka. This SIM card comes with a Thai number (+66).

The TrueMove H Smart Light SIM Card costs $20 and comes with 6 GB that is valid for 10 days.

You cannot call or SMS with the TrueMove H Smart Light SIM card nor receive them. Additionally, once the SIM card has been activated (when you put it in your device), the SIM card will expire once the credit validity hits, meaning that you cannot top-up your TrueMove H SIM card.

You can use your TrueMove H Smart SIM card in the following 20 destinations, including Sri Lanka:

  • Australia
  • Bangladesh
  • Brunei
  • Cambodia
  • China
  • Hong Kong
  • India
  • Indonesia
  • Japan
  • Laos
  • Macau
  • Malaysia
  • Mongolia
  • Myanmar
  • The Philippines
  • Singapore
  • South Korea
  • Sri Lanka
  • Taiwan
  • Vietnam

Surfroam

Surfroam is my to-go international SIM card that acts as a bridge between me arriving in a new destination and before buying a local SIM card. Often, airport WIFI is slow, and the SIM cards offered at the airports are overpriced.  

Surfroam is a data-only SIM card. You get a UK number (+44) and can receive SMS, but you cannot call or text. The SIM card will not expire as long as you top up once a year. The Surfroam SIM card is free, but you have to top-up at least €15 (or €20 for the eSIM variant) upon purchase.

Depending on where you are, you pay a minimum of €0.01 per MB (or slightly more than €10 per GB), which is cheaper than data packages in various countries around the world.

In Sri Lanka, you will pay €0.01 per MB when using your Surfroam SIM card on the Mobitel network.

Surfroam has agreements with operators in more than 200 destinations around the world, including Sri Lanka, which means that it will always have your back.

3 Smart SIM Cards

3 Hutchison is an international telecom operator active in various countries in Europe and Asia. The 3 Smart SIM cards are issued by 3 UK and come with a UK number (+44). They come in 4 variants:

SIM CardPriceDataCallsSMSCredit Validity
3 Smart Silver$3010 GBNoneNone30 days
3 Smart Gold$4012 GBNoneNone30 days
3 Smart Platinum$6012 GBNoneNone1 year
3 Smart Platinum X$8024 GBNoneNone2 years

You cannot call and text with any of the 3 Smart SIM cards. You can, however, receive calls and SMS for free if you are in an eligible destination (shown below).

All 3 Smart SIM cards can, besides Sri Lanka, be used in the following 22 destinations:

  • Australia
  • Brazil
  • Chile
  • Colombia
  • Costa Rica
  • El Salvador
  • Guatemala
  • Hong Kong
  • Indonesia
  • Israel
  • Macau
  • New Zealand
  • Nicaragua
  • Panama
  • Peru
  • Puerto Rico
  • Singapore
  • Sri Lanka
  • Uruguay
  • United States
  • US Virgin Islands
  • Vietnam

Recharging these SIM cards is only possible with cards registered to a UK address our 3 UK top-up vouchers.

AIS Smart SIM Cards

AIS is another Thai operator that has attractive international roaming packages and international SIM cards for those traveling in Asia. It also comes with a Thai (+66) number.

For Sri Lanka, they only have 1 SIM card, called AIS Smart Traveler, which costs $20, comes with 6 GB, and is valid for 10 days. You cannot call or text with this SIM card, nor can you receive calls and SMS.

Besides Sri Lanka, the AIS Smart Traveler SIM card can be used in the following 24 destinations:

  • Australia
  • Brunei
  • Cambodia
  • China
  • Hong Kong
  • India
  • Indonesia
  • Israel
  • Japan
  • Kazakhstan
  • Laos
  • Macau
  • Malaysia
  • Myanmar
  • Nepal
  • Pakistan
  • Philippines
  • Qatar
  • Singapore
  • South Korea
  • Sri Lanka
  • Taiwan
  • Tibet
  • Vietnam

Best Mobile Hotspots for Sri Lanka

Mobile hotspots, also known as Pocket WIFI, are useful for those traveling to Sri Lanka as a group or family. Buying data packages for everyone can add up quickly, which is why mobile hotspots can be a good alternative.

Just like international SIM cards, many companies are offering mobile hotspots, but there are 2 companies I would recommend for Sri Lanka.

Skyroam

Skyroam is a popular portable hotspot because they rent their Skyroam hotspot with unlimited data from $6 a day, and up to 10 devices can be connected to the hotspot. It works in more than 130 countries.

In Sri Lanka, you will pay $9 per day for unlimited high-speed data if you rent it, which is incredible.

You can also buy the Skyroam Solis Lite for $120 or the Skyroam Solis X for $180, and purchase country passes from $9 a day or global passes for $99 a month.

Both devices offer fast and secure WIFI speeds and allow you to connect to 10 devices. The Solis X also has a remote camera, speaker, microphone, Bluetooth, and a Smart Assistant. Neat.

Skyroam banner

Vision Global Wifi

Vision Global WIFI is another mobile hotspot provider that has a good reputation among travelers.

Vision Global hotspots cover more than 130 destinations around the world – Sri Lanka included. Their service comes in 3 variants:

  • Unlimited 4G Basic: $8.80/day – 500 MB high-speed data per day, then unlimited normal speed
  • Unlimited 4G Advanced: $14.90/day – 1 GB high-speed data per day, then unlimited normal speed
  • Unlimited 4G Max: $25.90/day – Unlimited high-speed data every day

The prices drop if you plan on using a Vision Global device for more than two weeks.

Vision Global WiFi Banner

What is next?

Looking for the best companies and gadgets to enhance your travel experience? Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! Save money on plane tickets, bus rides, cruises, and accommodation. Besides that, I also list services and items I use to make my life easier – and I believe they will help you too!

Book Your Flight for Sri Lanka

It is time to book your flight. Find cheap flights with AirWander so that you can add free or cheap stopovers in destinations you have not considered yet before going to Sri Lanka. If you are not ready to take off yet, set up flight alerts with Airfarewatchdog, and they will notify you once ticket prices to Sri Lanka drop.

Book Your Accommodation for Sri Lanka

I am a huge fan of Airbnb because it allows me to live with a local or get a local place for myself. Staying in someone’s house or apartment feels much different than being in a ho(s)tel, especially in Sri Lanka. At least, that is how I see it. Moreover, Airbnb can often be much cheaper than staying in a Sri Lankan hotel.

Get Your Travel Insurance for Sri Lanka

You will regret not having travel insurance once you actually need it and “forgot” to get it. Nowadays, travel insurance is cheap and comprehensive unlike back in the days. World Nomads is by far the best travel insurance for adventurous travelers like yourself. You can even get insured WHILE already traveling in Sri Lanka, which is not something many insurance companies allow you to do.

Get a Travel Debit Card

Travel Cheques are outdated. Paying with your credit card or debit card can be expensive because of all the exchange commissions banks charge you. TransferWise allows you to convert your main currency to Sri Lankan Rupees for a small fee (up to 8 times less than with your bank!) Getting a Transferwise Borderless account is FREE, so you will get an instant return on your investment.

Transferwise Banner

Enjoy your trip!

Ernest Adu

Ernest Adu, going by just Adu, is the founder and editor at Phone Travel Wiz. He has been a traveler for 6 years. Although from Europe, the Netherlands, Adu's favorite region in Asia, in particular, East and Southeast Asia. He currently lives in Tainan, Taiwan, and plans on exploring Oceania and more of East and Southeast Asia.

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