HDBaseT in your future?

I don't know about you, but wireless connections aren't reliable for me. Which is why my office and living room are a rat's nest of cables. But something called HDBaseT could fix that. Here's how.

Power. Video. Audio. PC. Network.

It's a jungle out there. And no swinging Tarzan to brighten my day.

It's gotten better. Power over Ethernet (PoE) combines power and network. HDMI combines video and audio. Thunderbolt combines network and video.

HDBaseT combines power, HDMI and 4k video, audio, consumer electronic controls and Ethernet, all on one Cat5e/6 cable, up to 100m - over 300 feet - in length. Sounds good, but how will retailers get customers to pay $300 for one skinny cable, even branded with a snappy 5Play moniker? It must be way better than 4Play!

HDBaseT has limits besides length. Max 100w DC power. 100Mb/s Ethernet. 10Gb/s uncompressed video.

But inquiring minds want to know: how do they get 4k video across 100Mb Ethernet? Short answer: they don't.

HDBaseT uses a different protocol for video: a proprietary 16 level Pulse Amplitude Modulation scheme to modulate all the signals onto the cable. Ethernet uses PAM as well.

But it isn't Ethernet, doesn't use packets or IP. It just maximizes the bandwidth of twisted pair - and may be more reliable than standard HDMI cables to boot. Yet is does support HDBaseT switches.

100w may not sound like much, but under the latest Energy Star specs its enough to power TV up to 60 inches.

Support for other protocols, such as USB and DisplayPort, is under consideration. Here's the dream HDBaseT home network, centralizing all your consumer gadgets and distributing them across multiple screens:

Graphic courtesy of Valens.


The Storage Bits take
While dozens of vendors including the likes of Sony, Samsung, LG, Epson and Panasonic are members of the HDBaseT Alliance, they haven't made much of a splash with public. Professionals who install complex entertainment and info systems like it, and they'll be promoting at next month's NAB show.

I suspect cost is part of the issue. The HDBaseT chips are only available from a single company and the products incorporating them start at hundreds of dollars, even though Belkin and Monoprice offer them.

Noise level on $50k home theater, but significant for the 99 percent. But if they can grow volume, costs should drop, paving the way for broader adoption.

Because I'd really like to cut down on the cables around me.

Comments welcome, of course. How do you see HDBaseT working for you, if at all?