Thursday, July 08, 2010

HDBaseT Looks To Unseat HDMI

If you’ve used HDMI cables for digital video connections, you’ve probably noticed a couple of things. They are eye-popping expensive and limited in length. Anything more than a few feet long is hard to come by and really, really pricey. Standard networking, on the other hand, can span hundreds of feet and has become very affordable. Even pre-built Cat5e or Cat6 cables are quite reasonable. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could just use your computer networking cable to distribute video? Well, pretty soon you may well do just that.

Can this LAN cable carry all your video, audio, computer networking, power and control signals? It just might with HDBaseT.The development that makes such an idea practical is called HDbaseT. It even sounds like a networking standard. The standardization work is being done by the HDBaseT Alliance, an industry group founded by LG Electronics, Samsung Electronics, Sony Pictures Entertainment and Valens Semiconductor.

The idea of replacing HDMI cables with their specialized connectors and construction with good old LAN cable is really quite appealing. But this is even better. HDBaseT is intended to provide what’s called 5Play convergence. One standard Cat5e/6 LAN cable with good old RJ-45 connectors on each end will deliver up to 5 separate services. These include uncompressed high definition video with audio, 100BaseT Ethernet, power for remote devices, plus control signals.

How much power? How does 100 Watts sound? That’s way more than we even expect from PoE or Power over Ethernet implementations that now exist. With 100W, you can power television receivers as well as remote security cameras.

What’s more, HDBaseT has room to scale. The base standard, HDBaseT 1.0 can carry uncompressed video/audio up to 10.2 Gbps, but is capable of scaling up to 20 Gbps. It can transport 100 Mbps Ethernet, but is capable of scaling up to Gigabit Ethernet speeds.

The HDBaseT Alliance announced finalization of the HDBaseT 1.0 specification on June 29. It’s expected that products with HDBaseT technology embedded will start appearing before the end of the year, with major adoption in 2011. The home video distribution market is all but crying for this type of solution. With the old analog TV, coaxial cable was cheap and easy to install and could easily cover the needs of a premises. HDTV and HD video need the same ease of distribution.

HDBaseT will also likely become important in B2B markets. Such applications as video conferencing, digital signage, security, and even video production can benefit from the flexibility and performance of this technology. Network convergence is getting more and more popular. HDBaseT looks like the right standard at the right time.

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