TV business kisses HDMI goodbye

HDMI's short-lived reign over the TV cable racks could soon be over, thanks to a new usurper that combines several connections into a single, standard network cable.

Designed by a coalition of consumer electronics manufacturers, including Sony, Samsung, LG and Valens, HDBaseT promises to not only carry video and audio signals, but also provide a network connection, a USB signal and even electricity using a single cable.

You won't even need to buy a fancy new cable to use it. According to the HDBaseT specification chart, you can "use existing network wiring" with a standard Cat5e/6 LAN cable and an RJ-45 connector. The HDBaseT Alliance, which is made up of the aforementioned electronics companies, has just finalised version 1.0 of the spec, and says it will be available for licensing within the second half of this year.

The Alliance predicts that we'll start seeing the first HDBaseT creeping into the shops later this year, but says the bigger wave of adoption will occur later in 2011.

In terms of benefits over other connectors, HDBaseT currently boasts a maximum cable length of 100m, compared with just a few metres with some HDMI cables and 15m for a DisplayPort cable. Impressively, it can also carry up to 100W of charging power, which the alliance says is enough to power an entire TV from another device.

Currently, the specification only allows for a 100Mb/sec Ethernet connection, but the alliance claims HDBaseT will be scalable up to 1Gb/sec in the future. Similarly, HDBaseT can currently playback video at up to 10.2Gb/sec, but it's theoretically scalable up to 20Gb/sec.

Even with its current specification, however, it already offers the same bandwidth as HDMI 1.4 and the alliance says it's more than capable of carrying a 1080p video signal, as well as stereoscopic 3D.

Explaining the need to get everything into a single, universal cable, the HDBaseT Alliance points out that the new connection "enables a network of sources - such as digital video recorders (DVR), Blu-ray disc players, game consoles, PCs and mobile devices - to be connected directly to displays in multiple locations."

The Alliance's chairman Ariel Sobelman is confident HDBaseT will quickly take over as the next TV connection standard. "HDBaseT technology is poised to become the unrivaled next-generation home networking transport," he said, adding that it was needed "to meet the ever-changing trends in the digital media market."

Keep a look-out for gold-plated ethernet cables costing £200 in rip-off electronics shops in the near future.