In a Perfect World…
Higher resolutions, expanded color, and enhanced contrast would be no issue for existing copper cables. Unfortunately, in reality, physics limits the distance that copper cables can transmit real 4K signals. While short distances are OK, copper HDMI cables have signal integrity problems over longer distances and IP-based solutions require compression, which introduces different types of problems for 4K video. The highest quality 4K video is uncompressed and only video over fiber has the bandwidth to deliver it. In the real world, mixing copper and optical technologies is sometimes the right decision.
Why fiber, Why now?
Copper wiring has been around since the 1880s. It has survived many generations of video technology. So what has changed? Well, 4K video with HDR became important, and it needs a full 18 Gbps link. Copper HDMI cables, even good ones as thick as your finger, only work to about 20 ft. IP-based video (HDBaseT, SDVoE, etc.) which was a popular extender technology for 1080p, is stuck at 10.2 Gbps for the foreseeable future.System integrators need a better solution today for 4K HDR video at 18 Gbps and soon for HDMI 2.1 data rates at 24 Gbps, 32 Gbps, and 48 Gbps. At these speeds all copper has to offer are caveats and compromises. Fiber has plenty of bandwidth plus it eliminates issues with electromagnetic interference and ground loops. Best of all, video over fiber isn’t fighting the future, it’s embracing it. Bring on the higher resolutions, faster frame rates, more colors, fancy contrast, and whatever other cool features are to come - fiber can handle it.
Yikes! Fiber! We hear this often from integrators when they first look at fiber. In this new column, we’re going to try to demystify fiber solutions and provide useful information from leading experts in the field. The AV industry has spent decades using copper cables. From coax to s-video to HDMI, fixed length copper cables have been cheap and easy. You just plug them in and they work. So why complicate things with fiber? The Fiber Connection will delve into the different types of fiber, cable technologies, connectors, electrical to optical (E-O) conversion systems, Video over IP over fiber, and case studies to help you understand fiber and provide your customers with the very best AV experience.