Can 4K Signal Distribution’s ‘Black Hole’ Be Solved?

Integrators at CI Expo in Oakland learn there is a ‘Black Hole’ between 16 feet and 35 feet in terms of cost effectiveness between copper and fiber to distribute signal 4K content.


There were two proverbial “Black Holes” at the CI Expo in Oakland. One was the sadness from attendees who had to shake off the playoff loss by their beloved San Francisco Giants the night before, and the second one related to HDMI signal distribution. 

The high-energy show, now in its eighth year, brought together 90 brands from local independent manufacturer’s rep firms and three distributors in Northern California for a one-day trade show and training event at the Hilton Oakland Airport Hotel. 

The 2016 CI Expo featured training and products from Artison, Epson, Denon, Marantz, HEOS, Pakedge, JL Audio, Future Ready Solutions, Parasound, Totem Acoustic, Vutec, Wilson Pro and others. 

Among the key training seminars was a presentation by Eric Bodley of Future Ready Solutions discussing the viability of fiber vs. copper for distributing video signals. The issue is becoming important as 4K 18GB @ 60Hz becomes necessary to send HDR signals at 4:4:4 to various displays in a home. 

His tongue-in-cheek message to dealers who continue to install copper using HDBaseT solutions for long-runs: “You are literally just installing future service calls.” 

“Fiber is laughing at our HDMI signals,” he continued, noting that fiber is certified to send signals at 100GB speeds, while the consumer electronics industry is only asking for 18GB.

Bodley told the gathering that copper-based HDMI cables are just fine for runs less than 16 feet, and fiber is the most cost-effective solution for anything over 35 feet.  

“But between those distances right now is a 'Black Hole.' It is too expensive to use fiber at that distance and copper will not effectively send a signal,” says Bodley. Single-mode, simplex fiber costs about 20 cents per foot. Single-mode, duplex fiber costs about 38 cents a foot. 

So what is being done? Bodley says manufacturers, working with DPL Labs, are trying to come up with a viable solution possibly using an enhanced chipset for copper HDMI cable to fill the gap. 

He also showed dealers pre-terminated fiber, how new coatings on fiber allow for extreme bend radius with no chance of breaking, and also how to terminate fiber in the field simply. 

Bodley also offered two valuable fiber installation tips:

  • When pulling fiber in the wall, installers need to pull by the Kevlar strands inside the cable, not by the outside jacket, which will stretch the fiber.
  • Try to not rub your eyes when you are terminating fiber. The micro-particles of glass can possibly get into your eyes.

The CI Expo itself was a big success, notes Jim Knight of Redwood Marketing. “As the technologies we deal with on a daily basis keep changing, our dealers and business partners need to change and adapt if they want to thrive rather than simply survive.”

This event included Redwood Marketing, Jan Tulloch Company, Steven Lester Company, ANSR, Fielder Marketing, Media Delivery Strategies, Paul Fitzpatrick Company and Zone Pacific Sales, Sierra Select Distributing, Profit Line Distributing and Custom AV Solutions.

About the Author

Jason Knott
Jason Knott:

Jason Knott is Chief Content Officer for Emerald's Connected Brands. Jason has covered low-voltage electronics as an editor since 1990, serving as editor and publisher of Security Sales & Integration. He joined CE Pro in 2000 and serves as Editor-in-Chief of that brand. He served as chairman of the Security Industry Association’s Education Committee from 2000-2004 and sat on the board of that association from 1998-2002. He is also a former board member of the Alarm Industry Research and Educational Foundation. He has been a member of the CEDIA Business Working Group since 2010. Jason graduated from the University of Southern California.


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