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Semicon industry needs to keep delivering value: Anil Gupta


Anil Gupta

Anil Gupta

In 2013, the global semiconductor industry had touched $306 billion or so. Sales had doubled from $100 billion to $200 billion in six years — from 1994 to 2000. It was enterprise sales that was driving this. It has taken 14 years to move past $300 billion, said Anil Gupta, managing director, Applied Micro Circuits India Pvt Ltd, at the UVM 1.2 day.

This time, consumption of semiconductors is not only around enterprise, but social networks as well. Out of the $306 billion, logic was approximately $86 billion, memory was $67 billion, and micro was $58 billion. We, as consumers, are starting to play a huge role.

However, the number of large players seem to be shrinking. Mid-size firms, like Applied Micro, are said to be struggling. Technology is playing an interesting role. There is a very significant investment in FinFETs. It may only get difficult for all of us. Irrespective, all of this is a huge barrier to the mid- to small-companies. Acquisitions are probably the only route, unless you are in software.

In India, we have been worried for a while, whether the situation will be a passing phase. We definitely will have a role to play. From an expertise perspective, thanks to our background, we have been a poor nation. For us, the job is the primary goal. We need to think: how do we deliver value? We have to try and keep creating value for as long as possible.

As more and more devices actually happen, many other things are also happening. An example for devices is power. We still have a fair number of years ahead where there will be opportunities to deliver value.

What’s happening between hardware and software? The latter is in demand. Clearly, there is a trend to make the hardware a commodity. However, hardware s not going away! Therefore, the opportunity for us to deliver value is huge.

Taking the tools to make something, is critical. UVM tools are critical. But, somewhere along the way, we seem to stop at that. We definitely need to add value. UVM’s aim is to make things re-usable.

Don’t loose your focus while doing verification. Think about the block, the subsystem and the top. You need to and will discover and realize how valuable it is to find a bug, before the tape out of the chip.

Are we at an inflection point in verification?


synopsysAre we at an inflection point in verification today? Delivering the guest keynote at the UVM 1.2 day, Vikas Gautam, senior director, Verification Group, Synopsys, said that today, mobile and the Internet of Things are driving growth. Naturally, the SoCs are becoming even more complex. It is also opening up new verification challenges, such as power efficiency, more software, and reducing time-to-market. There is a need to shift-left to be able to meet time-to-market goal.

The goal is to complete your verification as early as possible. There have been breakthrough verification innovations. System Verilog brought in a single language. Every 10-15 years, there has been a need to upgrade verification.

Today, many verification technologies are needed. There is a growing demand for smarter verification. There is need for much upfront verification planning. There is an automated setup and re-use with VIP. There is a need to deploy new technologies and different debug environments. The current flows are limitimg smart verification. There are disjointed environments with many tools and vendors.

Synopsys has introduced the Verification Compiler. You get access to each required technology, as well as next-gen technology. These technologies are natively integrated. All of this enables 3X verification productivity.

Regarding next gen static and formal platforms, there will be capacity and performance for SoCs. It should be compatible with implementation products and flows. There is a comprehensive set of applications. The NLP+X-Prop can help find tough wake-up bug at RTL. Simulation is tuned for the VIP. There is a ~50 percent runtime improvement.

System Verilog has brought in many new changes.  Now, we have the Verification Compiler. Verdi is an open platform. It offers VIA – a platform for customizing Verdi. VIA improves the debug efficiency.

3D remains central theme for Applied in 2014!


Om Nalamasu

Om Nalamasu

Following a host of forecasts for 2014, it is now the turn of Applied Materials with its forecast for the year. First, I asked Om Nalamasu, senior VP, CTO, Applied Materials regarding the outlook for the global semicon industry in 2014.

Semicon outlook 2014
He said that Gartner expects the semiconductor industry to grow in mid-single digits to over $330 billion in 2014.

“In our industry – the semiconductor wafer fab equipment sector – we are at the beginning of major technology transitions, driven by FinFET and 3D NAND, and based a wide range of analyst projections, wafer fab equipment investment is expected to be up 10-20 percent in 2014. We expect to see a year-over-year increase in foundry, NAND, and DRAM investment, with logic and other spending flat to down.”

Five trends for 2014
Next, what are the top five trends likely to rule the industry in 2014?

Nalamasu said that the key trends continuing to drive technology in 2014 and beyond include 3D transistors, 3D NAND, and 3D packaging. 3D remains a central theme. In logic, foundries will ramp to 20nm production and begin early transition stages to3D finFET transistors.

With respect to 3D NAND, some products will be commercially available, but most memory manufacturers plan to crossover from planar NAND to vertical NAND starting this year. In wafer level packaging, critical mechanical and electrical characterization work is bringing the manufacturability of 3D-integrated stacked chips closer to reality.

These device architecture inflections require significant advances in precision materials engineering. This spans such critical steps as precision film deposition, precision materials removal, materials modification and interface engineering. Smaller features and atomic-level thin films also make interface engineering and process integration more critical than ever.

Driving technology innovations are mobility applications which need high performance, low power semiconductors. Smartphones, smart watches, tablets and wearable gadgets continue to propel industry growth. Our customers are engaged in a fierce battle for mobility leadership as they race to be the first to market with new products that improve the performance, battery-life, form-factor and user experience of mobile devices.

How is the global semiconductor industry managing the move to the sub 20nm era?

He said that extensive R&D work is underway to move the industry into the sub-20nm realm. For the 1x nodes, more complex architectures and structures as well as new higher performance materials will be required.

Some specific areas where changes and technology innovations are needed include new hard mask and channel materials, selective material deposition and removal, patterning, inspection, and advanced interface engineering. For the memory space, different memory architectures like MRAM are being explored.

FinFETs in 20nm!
By the way, have FinFETs gone to 20nm? Are those looking for power reduction now benefiting?

FinFET transistors are in production in the most advanced 2x designs by a leading IDM, while the foundries are in limited R&D production. In addition to the disruptive 3D architecture, finFET transistors in corporate new materials such as high-k metal gate (HKMG) that help to drastically reduce power leakage.

Based on public statements, HKMG FinFET designs are expected to deliver more than a 20 percent improvement in speed and a 30 percent reduction in power consumption compared to28nm devices. These are significant advantages for mobile applications.

Status of 3D ICs
Finally, what’s the status with 3D ICs? How is Applied helping with true 3D stacking integration?

Nalamasu replied that vertically stacked 3D ICs are expected to enter into production first for niche applications. This is due primarily to the higher cost associated with building 3D wafer-level-packaged (WLP) devices. While such applications are limited today, Applied Materials expects greater utilization and demand to grow in the future.

Applied is an industry leader in WLP, having spear-headed the industry’s development of through silicon via (TSV) technology. Applied offers a suite of systems that enable customers to implement a variety of packaging techniques, from bumping to redistribution layer (RDL) to TSV. Because of work in this area, Applied is strongly positioned to support customers as they begin to adopt this technology.

To manufacture a robust integrated 3D stack, several fundamental innovations are needed. These include improving defect density and developing new materials such as low warpage laminates and less hygroscopic dielectrics.

Another essential requirement is supporting finer copper line/spacing. Important considerations here are maintaining good adhesion while watching out for corrosion. Finally, for creating the necessary smaller vias, the industry needs high quality laser etching to replace mechanical drilling techniques.

India’s evolving importance to future of fabless: Dr. Wally Rhines

February 3, 2014 2 comments

Dr. Wally RhinesIf I correctly remember, sometime in Oct. 2008, S. Janakiraman, then chairman of the India Semiconductor Association, had proclaimed that despite not having fabs, the ‘fabless India” had been shining brightly! Later, in August 2011, I had written an article on whether India was keen on going the fabless way! Today, at the IESA Vision Summit in Bangalore, Dr, Wally Rhines repeated nearly the same lines!

While the number of new fabless startups has declined substantially in the West during the past decade, they are growing in India, said Dr. Walden C. Rhines, chairman and CEO, during his presentation “Next Steps for the Indian Semiconductor Industry” at the ongoing IESA Vision Summit 2014.

India has key capabilities to stimulate growth of semiconductor companies, which include design services companies, design engineering expertise and innovation, returning entrepreneurs, and educational system. Direct interaction with equipment/systems companies will complete the product development process.

Off the top 50 semicon companies in 2012, 13 are fabless and four are foundries. The global fabless IC market is likely to grow 29 percent in 2013. The fabless IC revenue also continues to grow, reaching about $78.1 billion in 2013.  The fabless revenue is highly concentrated with the top 10 companies likely to account for 64 percent revenue in 2013. As of 2012, the GSA estimates that there aere 1,011 fabless companies.

The semiconductor IP (SIP) market has also been growing and is likely to reach $4,774 million by 2020, growing at a CAGR of 10 percent. The top 10 SIP companies account for 87 percent of the global revenue. Tape-outs at advanced nodes have been growing. However, there are still large large opportunities in older technologies.

IoT will transform industry
It is expected that the Internet of Things (IoT) will transform the semiconductor industry. It is said that in the next 10 years, as many as 100 billion objects could be tied together to form a “central nervous system” for the planet and support highly intelligent web-based systems. As of 2013, 1 trillion devices are connected to the network.

Product differentiation alone makes switching analog/mixed-signal suppliers difficult. Change in strategy toward differentiation gradually raises GPM percentage.

India’s evolving importance to future of fabless
Now, India ranks among the top five semiconductor design locations worldwide. US leads with 507, China with 472, Taiwan with 256, Israel with 150, and India with 120. Some prominent Indian companies are Ineda, Saankhya Labs, Orca Systems and Signal Chip (all fabless) and DXCorr and SilabTech (all SIP).

India is already a leading source of SIP, accounting for 5.3 percent, globally, after USA 43 percent and China 17.3 percent, respectively. It now seems that India has been evolving from design services to fabless powerhouse. India has built a foundation for a fabless future. It now has worldwide leadership with the most influential design teams in the world.

Presently, there are 1,031 MNC R&D centers in India. Next, 18 of the top 20 US semiconductor companies have design centers in India. And, 20 European corporations set up engineering R&D centers in India last year. India also has the richest pool of creative engineering resources and educational institutions in the world. The experience level of Indian engineers has been increasing, but it is still a young and creative workforce. There is also a growing pool of angel investors in India, and also in the West, with strong connections to India.

So, what are the key ingredients to generate a thriving infrastructure? It is involvement and expertise with end equipment. Superb product definition requires the elimination of functional barriers. He gave some examples of foreign “flagged” Indian companies that produced early successes. When users and tool developers work in close proximity, “out-of-the-Box” architectural innovations revolutionize design verification.

FinFETs delivering on promise of power reduction: Synopsys


Here is the concluding part of my conversation with Synopsys’ Rich Goldman on the global semiconductor industry.

Rich Goldman

Rich Goldman

Global semicon in sub 20nm era
How is the global semicon industry performing after entering the sub 20nm era? Rich Goldman, VP, corporate marketing and strategic alliances, Synopsys, said that driving the fastest pace of change in the history of mankind is not for the faint of heart. Keeping up with Moore’s Law has always required significant investment and ingenuity.

“The sub-20nm era brings additional challenges in device structures (namely FinFETs), materials and methodologies. As costs rise, a dwindling number of semiconductor companies can afford to build fabs at the leading edge. Those thriving include foundries, which spread capital expenses over the revenue from many customers, and fabless companies, which leverage foundries’ capital investment rather than risking their own. Thriving, leading-edge IDMs are now the exception.

“Semiconductor companies focused on mobile and the Internet of Things are also thriving as their market quickly expands. Semiconductor companies who dominate their space in such segments as automotive, mil/aero and medical are also doing quite well, while non-leaders find rough waters.”

Performance of FinFETs
Have FinFETs gone to below 20nm? Also, are those looking for power reduction now benefiting?

He added that 20nm was a pivotal point in advanced process development. The 20nm process node’s new set of challenges, including double patterning and very leaky transistors due to short channel effects, negated the benefits of transistor scaling.

To further complicate matters, the migration from 28nm to 20nm lacked the performance and area gains seen with prior generations, making it economically questionable. While planar FET may be nearing the end of its scalable lifespan at 20nm, FinFETs provide a viable alternative for advanced processes at emerging nodes.

The industry’s experience with 20nm paved the way for an easier FinFET transition. FinFET processes are in production today, and many IC design companies are rapidly moving to manufacture their devices on the emerging 16nm and 14nm FinFET-based process geometries due to the compelling power and performance benefits. Numerous test chips have taped out, and results are coming in.

“FinFET is delivering on its promise of power reduction. With 20nm planar FET technologies, leakage current can flow across the channel between the source and the drain, making it very difficult to completely turn the transistor off. FinFETs provide better channel control, allowing very little current to leak when the device is in the “off” state. This enables the use of lower threshold voltages, resulting in better power and performance. FinFET devices also operate at a lower nominal voltage supply, significantly improving dynamic power.”
Read more…

Top five trends likely to rule global semicon industry in 2014


Rich Goldman

Rich Goldman

What are the top five trends likely to rule the semicon industry in 2014 and why? Rich Goldman, VP, corporate marketing and strategic alliances, Synopsys, had this to say.

FinFETs
FinFETs will be a huge trend through 2014 and beyond. Semiconductor companies will certainly keep us well informed as they progress through FinFET tapeouts and ultimately deliver production FinFET processes.

They will tout the power and speed advantages that their FinFET processes deliver for their customers, and those semiconductor companies early to market with FinFETs will press their advantage by driving and announcing aggressive FinFET roadmaps.

IP and subsystems
As devices grow more complex, integrating third-party IP has become mainstream. Designers recognize as a matter of course that today’s complex designs benefit greatly from integrating third-party IP in such areas as microprocessors and specialized I/Os.

The trend for re-use is beginning to expand upwards to systems of integrated, tested IP so that designers no longer need to redesign well-understood systems, such as memory, audio and sensor systems.

Internet of Things/sensors
Everybody is talking about the Internet of Things for good reason. It is happening, and 2014 will be a year of huge growth for connected things. Sensors will emerge as a big enabler of the Internet of Things, as they connect our real world to computation.

Beyond the mobile juggernaut, new devices such as Google’s (formerly Nest’s) thermostat and smoke detector will enter the market, allowing us to observe and control our surrounding environment remotely.

The mobile phone will continue to subsume and disrupt markets, such as cameras, fitness devices, satellite navigation systems and even flashlights, enabled by sensors such as touch, capacitive pattern, gyroscopic, accelerometers, compasses, altimeters, light, CO, ionization etc. Semiconductor companies positioned to serve the Internet of Things with sensor integration will do well.

Systems companies bringing IC design in-house
Large and successful systems companies wanting to differentiate their solutions are bringing IC specification and/or design in house. Previously, these companies were focused primarily on systems and solutions design and development.

Driven by a belief that they can design the best ICs for their specific needs, today’s large and successful companies such as Google, Microsoft and others are leading this trend, aided by IP reuse.

Advanced designs at both emerging and established process nodes  
While leading-edge semiconductor companies drive forward on emerging process nodes such as 20nm, others are finding success by focusing on established nodes (28nm and above) that deliver required performance at reduced risk. Thus, challenging designs will emerge at both ends of the spectrum.

Part II of this discussion will look at FinFETs below 20nm and 3D ICs.

Can 2014 be a major year for global semicon industry?


The year 2014 is expected to be a major year for the global semiconductor industry. The industry will and continue to innovate!

Apparently, there are huge expectations from certain segments such as the so-called Internet of Things (IoT) and wearable electronics. There will likely be focus on the connected car. Executives have been stating there could be third parties writing apps that can help cars. Intel expects that technology will be inspiring optimism for healthcare in future. As per a survey, 57 percent of people believe traditional hospitals will be obsolete in the future.

Some other entries from 2013 include Qualcomm, who introduced the Snapdragon 410 chipset with integrated 4G LTE world mode for high-volume smartphones. STMicroelectronics joined ARM mbed project that will enable developers to create smart products with ARM-based industry-leading STM32 microcontrollers and accelerate the Internet of Things.

A look at the industry itself is interesting! The World Semiconductor Trade Statistics Inc. (WSTS) is forecasting the global semiconductor market to be $304 billion in 2013, up 4.4 percent from 2012. The market is expected to recover throughout 2013, driven mainly by double digit growth of Memory product category. By region, all regions except Japan will grow from 2012. Japan market is forecasted to decline from 2012 in US dollar basis due to steep Japanese Yen depreciation compared to 2012.

WSTS estimates that the worldwide semiconductor market is predicted to grow further in 2014 and 2015. According to WSTS, the global semiconductor market is forecasted to be up 4.1 percent to $317 billion in 2014, surpassing historical high of $300 billion registered in 2011. For 2015, it is forecasted to be $328 billion, up 3.4 percent.

All product categories and regions are forecasted to grow positively in each year, with the assumption of macro economy recovery throughout the forecast period. By end market, wireless and automotive are expected to grow faster than total market, while consumer and computer are assumed to remain stagnant.

Now, all of this remains to be seen!

Earlier, while speaking with Dr. Wally Rhines of Mentor, and Jaswinder Ahuja of Cadence, both emphasized the industry’s move to 14/16nm. Xilinx estimates that 28nm will have a very long life. It also shipped the 20nm device in early Nov. 2013.

In a 2013 survey, carried out by KPMG, applications markets identified as most important by at least 55 percent of the respondents were: Mobile technology – 69 percent; Consumer – 66 percent; Computing – 63 percent; Alternative/Renewal Energy – 63 percent; Industrial – 62 percent; Automotive – 60 percent; Medical – 55 percent; Wireline Communications – 55 percent.

Do understand that there is always a line between hope and forecasts, and what the end result actually turns out to be! In the meantime, all of us continue to live with the hope that the global semiconductor will carry on flourishing in the years to come. As Brian Fuller, Cadence, says, ‘the future’s in our hands; let’s not blow it!’

Round-up 2013: Best of semiconductors, electronics and solar


Virtex UltraScale device.

Virtex UltraScale device.

Friends, here’s a review of 2013! There have been the usual hits and misses, globally, while in India, the electronics and semiconductor industries really need to do a lot more! Enjoy, and here’s wishing everyone a Very Happy and Prosperous 2014! Be safe and stay safe!!

DEC. 2013
What does it take to create Silicon Valley!

How’s global semicon industry performing in sub-20nm era?

Xilinx announces 20nm All Programmable UltraSCALE portfolio

Dr. Wally Rhines: Watch out for 14/16nm technologies in 2014!

Outlook 2014: Xilinx bets big on 28nm

NOV. 2013
Indian electronics scenario still dull: Leaptech

Connecting intelligence today for connected world: ARM

India poses huge opportunity for DLP: TI

SEMICON Europa 2013: Where does Europe stand in 450mm path?

OCT. 2013
Apple’s done it again, wth iPad Air!

IEF 2013: New markets and opportunities in sub-20nm era!

SEPT. 2013
ST intros STM32F4 series high-performance Cortex-M4 MCUs

Great, India’s having fabs! But, is the tech choice right?

G450C

G450C

Now, India to have two semicon fabs!

Higher levels of abstraction growth area for EDA

AUG. 2013
Moore’s Law could come to an end within next decade: POET

What’s happening with 450mm: G450C update and status

300mm is the new 200mm!

JULY 2013
Xilinx tapes-out first UltraScale ASIC-class programmable architecture

JUNE 2013
EC’s goal: Reach 20 percent share in chip manufacturing by 2020!
Read more…

Dr. Wally Rhines: Watch out for 14/16nm technologies in 2014!


Dr. Wally RhinesIt is always a pleasure speaking with Dr. Walden (Wally) C. Rhines, chairman and CEO, Mentor Graphics Corp. The last time I met him was at Santa Cruz, USA, during a global electronics forum in April this year. First, I asked him regarding the outlook for the global semiconductor industry in 2014, as well as the EDA industry.

Outlook for global semicon industry in 2014
Dr. Rhines said: “The outlook for the global semicon industry in 2014 is modestly positive. Most analysts will see single digiit growth. In memory, we have short supply vs. demand. While we had consolidation of the wireless industry, we still have volumes of handsets, tablets, etc. In the US, tablets are said to be the biggest growth area during Xmas.

“When you look at any product, you look at what more can it do. You look at more and more features that can be added. We have speciallization in ARM-based chips. There are enough change dynamics that show demand. The iPad bridged the gap between the portable PC and phone. The infrastructure of apps has now made a huge infrastructure. If you are dependant on apps, there can be a differentiator.

“Wearable electronics is another great opportunity. However, it is still a small market. The electronic watch is interesting. We are in an era where there are some things that are key, and some require figuring out. There will be more and more need for specific devices, rather than only applications in future. The same thing was with the PC, which went from custom to specific needs.”

In that case, how is the global semiconductor industry performing having entering the sub 20nm era?

He said that 2014 is going to be a big year. There will be releases of 14/16nm technologies. This will be the year when customers will be doing tests. There are companies in all regions of the world that will be doing such stuff.

Have FinFETs gone to 20nm? Are those looking for power reduction now benefiting?

Dr. Rhines said: “The big advantage is leakage. FinFET dramatically impacts current leakage. Now, attention will shift to dynamic power. It will once again be predominantly the consumer of power in large chips.

Outlook for EDA industry
Now, let’s see what’s the outlook for the global EDA industry in 2014.

Dr. Rhines said: “Whenever you create new technologies, you will need EDA. So, EDA will grow. New designs will also need EDA. There will be new EDA tools. EDA is now addressing thermal and stress issues in verification and design. Caliber PERC is our main product here. The upgrades are good for EDA. There are new things they have to adopt, in these tools.”

Let’s talk a bit about embedded. Mentor released the new version of Sourcery CodeBench. What does it stand to gain?

Raghu Panicker, sales director, Mentor Graphics India said the Sourcery CodeBench is a real-time operating system (RTOS). That product is gaining momentum. Large MNC customers like Qualcomm are adopting this. Among small firms, there are medical, energy meter companies that are handling it as well.

Dr. Rhines added that Sorcery CodeBench is indicative of a trend – it is very open source based. It is now 20,000 downloads a month, so that is a big community.

Next is there any scope for the growth of biomems and optical telecom industry?

He said that both areas are interesting. Biomems are still a fairly small market. It is going to be evolutionary. As for optical telecom, over the last year or two, all participants have gone into a silent mode. Mentor is working with a number of customers.

Five trends to rule in 2014
Now, it was quiz time. First, the top five trends in the EDA industry during 2014. Dr. Rhines said:
* Growth of emulation for verification. The market is growing at over CAGR of 25 percent. Emulation is really big. It will be a big game changer for EDA.
* 16/14nm.
* Continued pressure on power as we go to FinFETs.
* Power reduction.
* Yield analysis for 14/16nm. A near range can be security.

Now, the top five trends for semiconductors in 2014! Dr. Rhines mentioned these as:
* Move to 14/16nm and cost.
* Growth in hybrid functions is another trend.
* Basic IoT.
* Security – how you verify designs.
* Continued commoditization of wireless apps.
Read more…

Outlook 2014: Xilinx bets big on 28nm


Neeraj Varma

Neeraj Varma

We are in December, and its time for outlook 2014! First, I met up with Neeraj Varma, director-Sales, India, Xilinx. He said: “We expect the 28nm to do really well. From Apr. 13-Mar. 14, we expect revenues worth $250 milion from the 28nm line.

“We are now looking at the embedded market – and expect about $2 billion serviceable available market (SAM). We are looking at $8 billion SAM at the ASIC/ASSP displacement market, and of course $6 billion SAM for core PLD.” After a long time, Xilinx has been seeing positive capex. “We are entering a growth cycle for service providers and enterprises,” he added.

A macro view of capex equipment spend is driven by LTE 27.2 percent at 2011-16, and optical networks 15.9 percent. The other areas include data center, enterprise switching and routing, and service provider switching and routing. Next, 3D ICs will enable Nx100G OTN, 400G OTN, MuxSAR, as well as top of the rack switch, I/O virtualization.

Earlier, there were less than 50 ASICs start in communications in the top 10 OEMs. There were less than 20 28nm ASIC starts in at top 10 OEMs. As of 2012, less than 50 percent of the top 16 ASSPs vendors were losing money. Customer needs are diverse now. Companies end up over designing a chip. People end up paying for what trey are not using.

Xilinx is offering the SMARTCORE IP for smarter networks and data centers. “40 percent of our wins have been achieved by integrating or displacing ASICs and ASSPs,” he said. “We have 25 percent total wins across a broad set of apps/portfolio.”

Some other gains for Xilinx:
* Xilinx gained 3 percent increase in PLDs.
* In wired and data centers, it has 12-percent CAGR from 2013-16.
* In wireless, it has 10-12 percent CAGR.
* In automotive smarter vision, it has 20 percent CAGR growth.
* In industrial, scientific and medical (ISM), it has 12 percent CAGR growth.
* In FY13E-FY16E, Xilinx expects to grow 8-12 percent, and has plans to increase the R&D revenue to 8.6 percent.

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