But I just had cabling installed for Hi Def TV—why won’t it work?

Tried to buy a TV that is not 4K UHD resolution? It is almost impossible now. The transition in TV and video displays to 4K Ultra High Definition (UHD) is almost complete. And now the wiring in your home is no longer compatible. Here is why:

Those expensive HDMI cables have always been limited to (depending on the resolution) under 12 feet of cable length. Sure, you could push 720p and 1080i resolutions through a 50 foot HDMI and it would usually work. But 1080p (Blu Ray) is a different story. Depending on the quality of the cable, you might get up to 20 feet. But the new 4K TV format is 12 feet or less. That forces you to put the equipment close to the TV, and that usually never looks good.

If you recently had CAT6 cable installed, you were probably thinking of using an “extender” to allow you to feed a TV up to 300 feet away. Again, resolution is the deciding factor, since higher resolutions have higher “bitrates” meaning more data is required to produce the image. CAT6 data cable, most noted for its use in computer networks, can carry up to 10 Gbps (1000 million bits per second) up to 150 feet, which is fine for most 1080p Blu Ray video sources, but not for the new 4K video unless you shorten the distance to, say, 80 feet or less. Then extenders work if they are of high enough quality and are compatible with HDCP 2.2 copy protection, and all the terminations and connections are perfect.

In most cases, if your home has CAT6 cabling installed, you would believe that it can handle 4K TV, but note a couple of rules:
First, the CAT6 cable must be “shielded” not the most common “unshielded”. Second, this applies for “compressed” 4k video, where the amount of data is reduced to allow it to work over weaker cabling arrangements, by sacrificing a bit of the resolution . In other words, your 4K is not authentic 4K, if it is coming from a cable receiver.

Upgrading to CAT6A shielded cabling is about as good as you can get for up to 300 feet using copper wire technology. The new CAT7 cable will handle 40 Gbps, but only to about 80 feet. But again, if you think about what you want to watch, the limitations show up. 4K UHD with HDR (high dynamic range) and uncompressed (no sacrifice of video quality) uses 18 Gbps of data—well past what any CAT6A or below copper wire can handle. UHD or as some brands call it “SUHD”, can’t be used unless the player is within about 7—10 feet of the TV using an HDMI cable.

And now the industry is introducing 8K and 10K video, which means that anything above plain 4K UHD needs to be run on fiber optic cabling, which depending on the fiber type can run for an insane (for residential use) 10 kilometers.

So if you are planning on building or renovating a home and want to have the equipment hidden away, coax and CAT6 won’t cut it. Call us for help!

Should you avoid Samsung TVs with Bell and Rogers?

We have encountered many reports both online, and with customers who have had difficulty with Samsung TV’s when using Bell Fibe or Rogers Cable.

Rogers’ Issue:

In Rogers’ case, the screen goes black and delivers the message “This is a 4K UHD channel that requires a HDCP 2.2 compatible 4K TV for display.”  This occurred shortly after the Olympics ended when apparently Rogers pushed a firmware update to all its customers, breaking 4K.  Some users simply had to buy a higher grade HDMI cable to solve the problem.  But if you have a video distribution system like a matrix device, even if it can handle 4K UHD HDCP 2.2, the length and quality of cable comes into play.

Using EDID management in a 4K video matrix to tell the Rogers box that “I am a 4K UHD HDCP 2.2 TV display” did not encourage the Rogers box to deliver 4K content.  Outboard EDID compensators also did not remedy the problem.  The only solution seemed to be to locate the Rogers cable receiver within the 7 foot limit of the HDMI cable length so a direct HDMI to HDMI connection could be made.  For many homes IF there was a cable feed to all the rooms, this is clumsy but workable.  But for restaurants and bars that have multiple TV’s sharing the same Rogers box, 4K was going to be a significant problem.  Calls to Rogers’ technical support put the problem on Samsung.

Bell Fibe’s Issue:

We set up a test system using a new Samsung and a new Panasonic TV, with Bell Fibe 4K PVR (Arris VIP5662)  and Rogers 4K connected to both.  The latest firmware was present. In this test, the connections were direct HDMI to HDMI, under 7 feet of cable length. Rogers was stable (we will add our findings from using a twisted pair ling range extender) but after about a week, Bell began to deliver the H1001 error code.  Rebooting or following any of Bell’s solutions would not work. On occasions where we were able to get it to behave, we tested Bell’s 4K content and found it to have no bandwidth issues, so it is not an “insufficient HDMI cable”, or too long a cable length.

To isolate the problem, we swapped inputs on the TV, so the Bell used the input that Rogers was successfully using.  The problem occurred on the new input.  Effectively, we have ruled out the TV and HDMI cable as possible failure points, leaving the Bell receiver as the culprit.  Bell is sending a new 4K box.

But it gets interesting:

We removed the functioning wireless Bell TV Anywhere receiver from the Panasonic TV and connected it to the Samsung TV.  It failed to work.  We now have isolated the problem to two devices—the Samsung TV and the Bell Fibe receivers (both 4K and 1080p devices).  Connect back to the Panasonic and it works perfectly.  Others have the same issue with the Rogers/Samsung pairing.

Here is where we have a serious choice: is it Rogers’ and Bell’s problem or Samsung’s?  The choice gets pretty simple.  You have the options of either Rogers or Bell as providers, but you can purchase any one of dozens of different TVs.  You can press your luck and use whichever provider with a Samsung TV, but if it becomes problematic later, you have only one other provider, and likely no way to get things to work. While this was once a problem that affected large multi-room systems, now it can infect anyone with a single TV.

Calling tech support is pointless, since each company will blame the other.  To Rogers/Bell, the issue only affects one brand of TV out of many, so they consider it not their fault, using their success with all the other TV brands as proof.  Similarly, Samsung may have no problems with any cable company in the world except a couple in the barren, inconsequential population of Canada.

Unfortunately, the best solution is to avoid Samsung TVs, since there are infinitely more TVs than providers in the Canadian market.  Samsungs are some of the lowest priced TVs on the market, but not worth the aggravation that can appear well after the warranty expires.   While we design systems that are as cost effective as possible, we have always known that some products are inexpensive for a reason. We do not spec Samsung TVs when a Rogers or Bell service is involved, but will still use them on other video sources if they perform.

Here is a link with further details on dealing with he problems affecting Samsung TVs:


Home, Sour Home…

We were called in to finish the network wiring in a construction project involving a beautiful house perched majestically overlooking a Toronto ravine.  The last contractor and electricians had been fired, and drywall was complete.  We could only hope that the raw data cabling was sufficient.  In a new home, the slower Category 5e data cable was the wrong choice, and did not even meet the slower speed qualifications.  This new construction project should have been minimum Category 6 to handle future needs.

But someone must have been thinking futuristically, since they thought that there was no need for coax cable to be installed.  The day the owners moved in, they found they could not get Bell DSL internet service, so they had to resort to cable internet, but without any coax cable in the house, there was no way to get cable to the  TV in the media room.  It required a signal conversion system that cost as much as installing coax cable throughout the house to solve the problem without cutting the newly finished drywall.

Low voltage data and A/V cabling is a specialty well beyond the capability of electricians, just as we do not mess with high voltage electrical. But it is essential to involve or consult an A/V integrator before construction begins, if only to be sure you are not going to run into staggering limitations.