Networking & Cables

Valens Responds: What’s the Road Map for 4K @60 MHz HDBaseT with 4:4:4?

What is the time line for HDBaseT to support 4K UHD with 4:4:4 color rendering, and how should you prewire today? Valens Semiconductor, exhibiting at CEDIA 2016, responds.

Valens Responds: What’s the Road Map for 4K @60 MHz HDBaseT with 4:4:4?
Valens Semiconductor responds to reader question about the future of HDBaseT to support 4K Ultra HD with 4:4:4 color rendering.

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We get quite a few emails from savvy end users who want to dive into the smart home and 4K Ultra HD video. Recently we heard from one CEPro.com reader who wants to "future proof" for 4K @ 60Mhz with 4:4:4 color rendering. How should he wire his home? Will HDBaseT fit the bill with Cat 5 wiring? Is fiber required?

We passed the inquiry to Valens Semiconductor, developer of HDBaseT, the technology that delivers audio, video, data and control signals over a single category cable. Valens, which provides the chips for HDBaseT implementers, says it's not quite ready for 4:4:4 but is "working on a new specification which will enable 16G," the bandwidth required for 4:4:4.

Dealers can ask Valens themselves at CEDIA 2016.


Reader: How Should I Prep for 4:4:4?

I’m in the process of building a house that I want prepared for 4k @ 60Mhz 4:4:4 color and this site and your articles have been invaluable to help me understand the multitude of standards and specs that are involved in trying to distribute video from a central location. 

I’ve come to two key conclusions: 1) I should spec Cat 7a for layer 1 [physical layer/cabling] because it is required in order to carry the 18Gbps needed for 4k @ 60Mhz 4:4:4 color, and 2) I should probably run two per location.

Even though content for 4k @ 60Mhz 4:4:4 color is now starting to emerge (very slowly), I can’t distribute it because the current Valens chips at the heart of HDBaseT will only push ~10 Gbps or 4k @60Mhz 4:2:0 color - so you can’t buy a matrix switch on the market that will meet the spec. I will be getting the LU862 8x8 switch from Leaf/Control4.

From the research I've done, I believe the max performance in a video matrix switch I can get on the market right now is 4k @60 MHz with 4:2:0 color, but 4:4:4 color UHD content is here now, albeit extremely limited.  

I plan to be in the house several years and thus foresee needing to distribute 60 MHz 4:4:4 content when equipment becomes available.

The main question for now is what to do about layer 1 (cable). It looks like it will take an 18 Gbps infrastructure to accommodate 60 MHz 4:4:4 content. So I'm specing 2 Cat 7a cables per monitor run terminated like Cat 6 (with enough cable left to re-terminate in the future with Cat 7 terminators when needed).  

The question is whether the industry is likely to go 1) multiple Cat 6 ports, 2i) a single Cat 7/8 port, or 3) fiber in order to distribute UHD content in the future.  

The second question is when might that be!?  

I'd like to protect the investment I'm making as much as possible and there is just not much info out there on how the layer 1 problem will be solved ... or when. 

Because there’s not much investment protection on the switch (i.e., no ability to buy new HDBaseT cards, firmware upgrades, etc.), I wanted to know when new product might be coming.


HDBaseT/Valens Responds

As you mentioned yourself, right now the only option is 4K 60fps 4:2:0. The [HDBaseT] Alliance is working on a new specification which will enable 16G (which is equivalent to the 18G of HDMI to transmit 4K 60fps 4:4:4), but the spec is not finalized yet. Even after finalizing the standard, it will take a while for vendors to incorporate it in their products and pass certification. So it’s hard for me to give you a very definite timeframe for this.  

One thing that is central for HDBaseT is backward compatibility – meaning we strive that any future spec is backward compatible with the past specs.

Right now, the consensus I received from the team is that you probably do not need to go higher than Cat 6a for cabling. In terms of one or two cables, it is hard for me to give you a definite answer, but I can tell you that the future spec will be based on a one-cable solution. There may be 4K 4:4:4 solutions based on 2 cables, but they are not at the moment HDBaseT standard. 

Last, regarding fiber: Please note that Spec 2.0 does support fiber as the transmission channel; however, it does not allow higher bandwidth, just longer distances.  


Reader: So Here's What I'll Do ...

Here's what I've determined:

1. My investment in the switch is protected for a few years. Given the spec is on the drawing board now, we probably won’t see product on the market for 3-4 years – and even then, it’s not always great to be the first adopter! So I feel comfortable that the switch I’m buying has at least a five-year life.

That’s typically about my target anyway for home computers and A/V equipment.

2. The industry is having a tough time navigating the big layer 1 issue – which shouldn’t be a big surprise. There’s a ton of old, slow copper deployed and data network professionals have been struggling with this issue for years. Manufactures have to be able to sell the equipment they design and produce.

Here's what I'm going to do:

I’m going to run two Cat 7a cables to each TV location and terminate using Cat 6a-standard 8P8C RJ-45 connectors and have the installers leave enough cable at both ends to re-terminate with Cat 7a-standard connectors (GG45, TERA, etc.) when/if needed.

Cat7a is rated at 40 Gbps which covers the 4k UHD 60 Hz 4:4:4 spec and having two cables covers the use case where the industry decides that with all the Cat 6 cables installed, product can be sold if it’s designed to use two (see Extron white paper).  I know it will cost me a little extra, but not near what it would cost in five to 10 years to retrofit new cables behind the walls.



  About the Author

Julie Jacobson, recipient of the 2014 CEA TechHome Leadership Award, is co-founder of EH Publishing, producer of CE Pro, Electronic House, Commercial Integrator, Security Sales and other leading technology publications. She currently spends most of her time writing for CE Pro in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V and the business of home systems integration. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, and has never taken a journalism class in her life. She's a washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player currently residing in Carlsbad, Calif. Email Julie at [email protected]

Follow Julie on social media:
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View Julie Jacobson's complete profile.



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Comments

Posted by John Nemesh on August 19, 2016

I have been recommending Celerity’s Fiber Optic HDMI cables to my dealers.  They support 4k/60Hz with 4:4:4 color out of the box, and have been working VERY well out in the field.  They are pre-terminated with “micro” connectors and available in lengths up to 1000 ft (!) and also support ARC.  They also have just released a new product which terminates to “keystone” inserts (“micro” connector female to HDMI female) that will fit any standard “Quickport” wall plate.  In most commonly needed lengths, they are comparable in cost to a Cat5/6 extender.  VERY highly recommended!

Posted by bvsquidley on August 18, 2016

In full disclosure, I am one the principals of a firm that Julie mentioned (TechLogix Networx). As a weigh in, I tend to agree with recommendation on smurf tube as it will likely future-proof more than any other route. However, I know that smurf tube can be unwieldy even in new installations.

That said, I would recommend considering a bundled structured cable that includes both fiber and copper runs. Liberty AV offers several different solutions, both off-the-shelf and custom.

It’s true that we will be able to transmit [email protected] 4:4:4 over twisted pair; however, there will be compression that affects signal performance and latency. That’s generally OK for remote and secondary areas; but it’s not ideal. I wouldn’t give up on fiber, especially considering recent advances that have driven cost down and usability up.

Posted by iKnowTech on August 17, 2016

Honestly, I think person saying they will use CAT7a is confused in some of this.  Yes CAT7a is rated up to 40Gbps but that’s for IP networks.  I’m not sure that has much to do with HDBaseT transmission rates.    He may actually be causing more problems than he is solving because CAT7a wire has much different properties with Copper Gauge number of twists etc.  So unless HDBaseT alliance specifically states they recommend CAT7a, I’m not sure I would go that route.  Personally, I think you would be better off running standard shielded CAT6.

I think it will be pretty problematic if the folks working on HDBaseT can’t get 4k 60Hz 4:4:4 working on CAT6 cable, preferably even CAT5e, because I think they could potentially lose a lot of retrofit projects to HD over IP transmissions solutions like Just Add Power.  They are already supporting 4k 60Hz 4:4:4 with their latest firmware, all support over standard non shielded CAT5e 1GB networks.   

While Fiber is here, it’s still pretty cost prohibitive for a lot of residential projects, and it’s not really proven if/when it will ever really be required, I think I would tend to agree with the poster that suggested smurf tube.  If you ever get to the point where Fiber is your only option your all set for it.

Personally I think we’ll be seeing CAT6 working for a majority of residential uses for the next 10 years at least.

Posted by Dipdog21 on August 17, 2016

Please include in the article that the support for 4K 60 4:4:4 is at 8bit. Also the HDR content, at least the ones we have tested are 4K 60 4:2:0 10bit, I assume there will be no issue with 4:4:4 8bit, but haven’t seen this.

Posted by smarthousecontrol gmail.com on August 16, 2016

Hey everyone…..there is a very very simple easy solution for new construction for this dilemma…...RUN the “smurf”.... flexible conduit from the display device to the head end where the source will be…..and have the ability to run/replace the wire in the future at any time…....Smurf can be ordered up to 2 inch in flex…and allows for large bundles of wire / or easy pulling…...now you are future proofed forever….and you can run whatever wire that will be needed for the display years from now…......remember…..follow the K.I.S.S…method/solution…...many times a problem will have an easy solution…..

Posted by Julie Jacobson on August 16, 2016

In the interest of fairness, we should note these other fiber exhibitors at CEDIA: Celerity, Chromis Fiberoptics, Fiberoptics Technoogy, Inneos, Techlogix Networx

Posted by Clrtec on August 16, 2016

I’m not going to pretend this response is unbiased…My name is Robert D’Addario, I am writing this comment as the President/Managing Director of Cleerline Technology Group, LLC. If you are not familiar with Cleerline and Cleerline SSF technology, please look us up, do a little bit of research, watch a couple of informative videos, or read a couple of documents that relate to our fiber technology and this response will make a lot more sense.

First I completely agree with the fact that existing infrastructure will be used to carry 4k/2k signal in some capacity for a very long time, that there will be a lowest common denominator factor that limits full 4k/2k 60 4.4.4 HDR from being adopted on pre-existing infrastructure, simply current twisted pair has run out of bandwidth, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be solutions that make the best of what is in place in the vast amounts of homes and businesses around the country or world.

That being said for anyone pulling cable for a new install today, we have reached the point with technology where not pulling fiber simply does not make sense. Here are the facts:

- Fiber is more durable than any copper solution.
- Fiber is more reliable, with no EMI/RF interference, decoupled systems protect hardware against lighting strikes, and excessive bandwidth built into the very nature of data traveling at the speed of light.
- Fiber’s bandwidth is not determined by the cable, but rather it is determined by the devices connected to the cable.
- Cleerline SSF Fiber has removed all of the previous hurdles for fiber installation and termination.

Fiber is easier to pull, and easier to terminate compared to Cat 6a, or Cat 7, and is arguably easier than previous Cat5e, and Cat6 solutions.

The limitations of copper moving forward for 30-40Gps links will be 30m, fiber is 300m with multi-mode and much much longer if using single mode. The acceptable bend radius for copper 6a, 7 or 8 is greater than 80mm vs. Cleerline SSF’s 2.2mm minimum bend. The short term load for copper is 25 lbs, vs. SSF’s 225 lbs. The time to terminate in the field for Copper 6a, 7 or 8 solutions is between 2-10 minutes dependent upon your skill level, SSF’s is under 1 minute. There is no training or certification required for SSF fiber products that are currently available through Liberty AV, Snap AV and Cleerline Technology Group.

Regarding costs for connectors and cable, SSF fiber is now equal or less expensive than certain Cat6a, Cat7 and Cat8 solutions. Regarding tooling Cleerline is currently introducing a $499 dealer net tool kit for fiber termination (has everything you need to get up and running installing and terminating fiber).

Regarding hardware, the costs are dropping every day with new entrants into the market for HDMI links like Broadata, Techlogix Networks, Zigan, Digitalinx and many others to come. Pricing on equivalent products copper vs. fiber can be as low a 5-10% delta in certain comparisons, this will only improve and become equal if not cheaper as fiber is adopted on a greater scale.

As www.clrtec.com a distributor of copper extenders, the number and 1 and 2 reasons for product failure in the field are EMI/RF interference, and poor cable installation and termination in the field. 70% of the product returns we encounter with the brands we distribute work perfectly to spec on the test bench upon their return. With Fiber optics we completely eliminate this variable from the equation, and have had a significantly lower failure rate in the field, the only failures we’ve seen thus far are due to true product failure not poor installation practice.

Our recommendation for future proofing and providing a bullet proof EMI/RF interference free solution with bandwidth to spare is to pull and use fiber wherever you can, and pull Cat6 or Cat6a along side it for providing power, control or offering a lower quality (not top spec) solution today where top of the line is not required, this insures that your customer will have the infrastructure in place for years if not decades to come.

Bottom line fiber is here, fiber is easier than ever, and fiber is just simply a better solution for your customers.

Posted by jhamill1 on August 15, 2016

Just as with RG-6, so many homes are already wired with Cat5e or Cat6 cabling. Combined with the idea that many consumers are more selective about ease of use and reliability issues and less so about the performance differences between 10.2 Gbps and 18 Gbps HDMI, it seems like the bulk of 4K material we’ll see in the reasonable future will be maximized for various flavors of 10.2.

Posted by jhamill1 on August 15, 2016

Just as with RG-6, so many homes are already wired with Cat5e or Cat6 cabling. Combined with the idea that many consumers are more selective about ease of use and reliability issues and less so about the performance differences between 10.2 Gbps and 18 Gbps HDMI, it seems like the bulk of 4K material we’ll see in the reasonable future will be maximized for various flavors of 10.2.

Posted by Clrtec on August 16, 2016

I’m not going to pretend this response is unbiased…My name is Robert D’Addario, I am writing this comment as the President/Managing Director of Cleerline Technology Group, LLC. If you are not familiar with Cleerline and Cleerline SSF technology, please look us up, do a little bit of research, watch a couple of informative videos, or read a couple of documents that relate to our fiber technology and this response will make a lot more sense.

First I completely agree with the fact that existing infrastructure will be used to carry 4k/2k signal in some capacity for a very long time, that there will be a lowest common denominator factor that limits full 4k/2k 60 4.4.4 HDR from being adopted on pre-existing infrastructure, simply current twisted pair has run out of bandwidth, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be solutions that make the best of what is in place in the vast amounts of homes and businesses around the country or world.

That being said for anyone pulling cable for a new install today, we have reached the point with technology where not pulling fiber simply does not make sense. Here are the facts:

- Fiber is more durable than any copper solution.
- Fiber is more reliable, with no EMI/RF interference, decoupled systems protect hardware against lighting strikes, and excessive bandwidth built into the very nature of data traveling at the speed of light.
- Fiber’s bandwidth is not determined by the cable, but rather it is determined by the devices connected to the cable.
- Cleerline SSF Fiber has removed all of the previous hurdles for fiber installation and termination.

Fiber is easier to pull, and easier to terminate compared to Cat 6a, or Cat 7, and is arguably easier than previous Cat5e, and Cat6 solutions.

The limitations of copper moving forward for 30-40Gps links will be 30m, fiber is 300m with multi-mode and much much longer if using single mode. The acceptable bend radius for copper 6a, 7 or 8 is greater than 80mm vs. Cleerline SSF’s 2.2mm minimum bend. The short term load for copper is 25 lbs, vs. SSF’s 225 lbs. The time to terminate in the field for Copper 6a, 7 or 8 solutions is between 2-10 minutes dependent upon your skill level, SSF’s is under 1 minute. There is no training or certification required for SSF fiber products that are currently available through Liberty AV, Snap AV and Cleerline Technology Group.

Regarding costs for connectors and cable, SSF fiber is now equal or less expensive than certain Cat6a, Cat7 and Cat8 solutions. Regarding tooling Cleerline is currently introducing a $499 dealer net tool kit for fiber termination (has everything you need to get up and running installing and terminating fiber).

Regarding hardware, the costs are dropping every day with new entrants into the market for HDMI links like Broadata, Techlogix Networks, Zigan, Digitalinx and many others to come. Pricing on equivalent products copper vs. fiber can be as low a 5-10% delta in certain comparisons, this will only improve and become equal if not cheaper as fiber is adopted on a greater scale.

As www.clrtec.com a distributor of copper extenders, the number and 1 and 2 reasons for product failure in the field are EMI/RF interference, and poor cable installation and termination in the field. 70% of the product returns we encounter with the brands we distribute work perfectly to spec on the test bench upon their return. With Fiber optics we completely eliminate this variable from the equation, and have had a significantly lower failure rate in the field, the only failures we’ve seen thus far are due to true product failure not poor installation practice.

Our recommendation for future proofing and providing a bullet proof EMI/RF interference free solution with bandwidth to spare is to pull and use fiber wherever you can, and pull Cat6 or Cat6a along side it for providing power, control or offering a lower quality (not top spec) solution today where top of the line is not required, this insures that your customer will have the infrastructure in place for years if not decades to come.

Bottom line fiber is here, fiber is easier than ever, and fiber is just simply a better solution for your customers.

Posted by Julie Jacobson on August 16, 2016

In the interest of fairness, we should note these other fiber exhibitors at CEDIA: Celerity, Chromis Fiberoptics, Fiberoptics Technoogy, Inneos, Techlogix Networx

Posted by smarthousecontrol gmail.com on August 16, 2016

Hey everyone…..there is a very very simple easy solution for new construction for this dilemma…...RUN the “smurf”.... flexible conduit from the display device to the head end where the source will be…..and have the ability to run/replace the wire in the future at any time…....Smurf can be ordered up to 2 inch in flex…and allows for large bundles of wire / or easy pulling…...now you are future proofed forever….and you can run whatever wire that will be needed for the display years from now…......remember…..follow the K.I.S.S…method/solution…...many times a problem will have an easy solution…..

Posted by Dipdog21 on August 17, 2016

Please include in the article that the support for 4K 60 4:4:4 is at 8bit. Also the HDR content, at least the ones we have tested are 4K 60 4:2:0 10bit, I assume there will be no issue with 4:4:4 8bit, but haven’t seen this.

Posted by iKnowTech on August 17, 2016

Honestly, I think person saying they will use CAT7a is confused in some of this.  Yes CAT7a is rated up to 40Gbps but that’s for IP networks.  I’m not sure that has much to do with HDBaseT transmission rates.    He may actually be causing more problems than he is solving because CAT7a wire has much different properties with Copper Gauge number of twists etc.  So unless HDBaseT alliance specifically states they recommend CAT7a, I’m not sure I would go that route.  Personally, I think you would be better off running standard shielded CAT6.

I think it will be pretty problematic if the folks working on HDBaseT can’t get 4k 60Hz 4:4:4 working on CAT6 cable, preferably even CAT5e, because I think they could potentially lose a lot of retrofit projects to HD over IP transmissions solutions like Just Add Power.  They are already supporting 4k 60Hz 4:4:4 with their latest firmware, all support over standard non shielded CAT5e 1GB networks.   

While Fiber is here, it’s still pretty cost prohibitive for a lot of residential projects, and it’s not really proven if/when it will ever really be required, I think I would tend to agree with the poster that suggested smurf tube.  If you ever get to the point where Fiber is your only option your all set for it.

Personally I think we’ll be seeing CAT6 working for a majority of residential uses for the next 10 years at least.

Posted by bvsquidley on August 18, 2016

In full disclosure, I am one the principals of a firm that Julie mentioned (TechLogix Networx). As a weigh in, I tend to agree with recommendation on smurf tube as it will likely future-proof more than any other route. However, I know that smurf tube can be unwieldy even in new installations.

That said, I would recommend considering a bundled structured cable that includes both fiber and copper runs. Liberty AV offers several different solutions, both off-the-shelf and custom.

It’s true that we will be able to transmit [email protected] 4:4:4 over twisted pair; however, there will be compression that affects signal performance and latency. That’s generally OK for remote and secondary areas; but it’s not ideal. I wouldn’t give up on fiber, especially considering recent advances that have driven cost down and usability up.

Posted by John Nemesh on August 19, 2016

I have been recommending Celerity’s Fiber Optic HDMI cables to my dealers.  They support 4k/60Hz with 4:4:4 color out of the box, and have been working VERY well out in the field.  They are pre-terminated with “micro” connectors and available in lengths up to 1000 ft (!) and also support ARC.  They also have just released a new product which terminates to “keystone” inserts (“micro” connector female to HDMI female) that will fit any standard “Quickport” wall plate.  In most commonly needed lengths, they are comparable in cost to a Cat5/6 extender.  VERY highly recommended!