Common Questions: HDBaseT

HDBaseT has become the leading solution for delivering ultra-high-definition (UHD) 4K video and audio, USB 2.0, 100 MB Ethernet, control and 100W on a single cable. This is what the HDBaseT Alliance refers to as the “5Play™ feature set.” It’s a huge benefit to have one cable that supports all these applications up to 330 ft for AV installations.

How HDBaseT Works with HDMI

The HDMI connector has become the industry standard for AV applications. It’s estimated that there are more than 4 billion HDMI devices currently in use. The HDMI 1.4 specification requires bandwidth of almost 10 Gbps. The HDMI 2.0 specification requires 18 Gbps, and the new HDMI 2.1 specification requires 48 Gbps. It’s clear that we’re seeing a rapid increase in bandwidth demand.

HDMI cables, however, have some distance limitations. Anything longer than 15 ft should have a chip to boost the signal (directional). Anything longer than 50 ft should be over active optical connection (AOC). Note: Cable distances supported for the newest 2.1 specification are still unclear because products are not available yet. In addition to distance limitations, HDMI can be difficult to install because the cables aren’t typically field terminated. These limitations cause real problems, especially in commercial installations.

This is where HDBaseT steps in. It can take the HDMI input, along with the other 5Play technology signals, and transport it 330 ft over a field-terminable, 4-pair twisted copper cable. Not only can you achieve longer distances, but, with the use of a switch, you can use multiple inputs and outputs.

Although HDBaseT was originally intended to work with standard category cabling, there have been some issues. As a result, we recommend that you choose a cable designed for the HDBaseT system you’re implementing.

The Best Cabling System for HDBaseT

Belden has performed several cabling tests to analyze bundling, power and 4K performance among different cabling systems. These tests have identified the cabling that can reliably support HDBaseT technology.

During testing, key parameters were identified in HDBaseT signal and design. This resulted in Belden’s creation of the industry’s first cable designed specifically for HDBaseT 4K video. These key electrical parameters are increased over standard category cable while still maintaining a cable that’s easy to install due to size and flexibility.

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Are Category Cables Sufficient for HDBaseT?

New discoveries have been made about HDBaseT™ signals over the past couple of years, impacting the types of cables that are best suited to transport these new signals.

Recent test results indicate, category cables – which are optimized for Ethernet traffic – often battle with the HDBaseT signal. The characteristics of category cables are often overkill for HDBaseT applications; other times, category cable characteristics are not sufficient to guarantee a great signal. HDBaseT is a dissimilar type of signal, and 4K video is jolting that threshold even further.

To better understand the capabilities of category cables when it comes to HDBaseT, we want to share the outcome of Belden’s in-house cable testing. But, first, it’s vital  to know what standard we tested to.

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HDBaseT: Let’s talk Convergence

There has been talk about convergence in the cabling world; some driven by new technology and market overlapping. Today’s system integrator has the ability to install a system that covers phones, computers, security, audio/video and also low-voltage power.

There are two types of convergence that we often discuss: technology and infrastructure.

Technology convergence uses a single network system, such as Ethernet, to support multiple devices. All of these devices share the same cable and active equipment. An example, you can now plug your desk phone and computer into the same telecom switch. Ethernet networks can support just about every aspect of communication, voice, data, security, building control and even AV applications. This is not the convergence we are talking about.   

Infrastructure convergence uses the same cable to support multiple systems. All sorts of devices connect to their own system using a common cabling system. The biggest type of communication cabling being used today is Ethenet category cable. While the entire system shares the same cable, the devices don’t speak the same language; therefore, they cannot communicate with each other. This system offers customers a universal, low cost-cabling system. But is it really the best solution for each application?

This article examines one version of this type of convergence: the use of category cabling for HDBaseT signals.

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