HDMI is the audiovisual connection standard that we use in all devices such as Smart TVs, consoles, TV Boxes, monitors, computers to connect monitors, and even laptops to connect an external monitor and even a projector. The HDMI standard is more alive than ever, and a good example of this is that even some NAS servers incorporate this feature to connect them to a monitor or TV to play multimedia content. You may not know that HDMI can also transport Ethernet, it is what is known as HDMI Ethernet Channel (HEC), today in this article we are going to explain what it is for, and why it is hardly used.
What is HDMI Ethernet Channel
HDMI Ethernet Channel or also known as HEC, is a feature that was introduced in the HDMI 1.4 version in 2009, in addition, they also took the opportunity to add a feature that is very important today, and that is that they also introduced the ARC that is It is mainly used in sound systems, such as the popular sound bars. The HDMI Ethernet Channel can be used to connect two or more HDMI compatible devices that have an Internet connection with a speed of up to 100Mbps. In this way, not only multimedia content will travel through the cable, but also connection to the local network and the Internet, all in the same cable.
Today we can find normal HDMI cables, these do not support this HEC feature, we must buy a specific cable that does support it, however, the price is quite similar between both types of HDMI cables. Therefore, if we know that our devices support HEC, we must make sure that the cable we buy is “HDMI with Ethernet”, otherwise it will not work for us.
The objective of this new standard is that if a TV is connected to the Internet via Ethernet network cable or WiFi, it could share this Internet connection to our console (connected by HDMI) and even to a TV Box or any other device. This was the original idea, that the Smart TV was a “hub” where the rest of the devices were later connected. In this way, it would not be necessary for each device individually to have to connect specifically. It could even be made that a specific device acts as a hub and is connected to the main router or switch, and later distribute the Internet connection to the different devices through the HDMI cable.
Why is it barely used?
Although the idea of joining the audiovisual channel and the Internet is a good idea, to only have a single cable and not use separate connections, the truth is that today there are hardly any devices that support this feature. In theory this technology is very good, however, in practice it is not so good, because in real life each device has its own Ethernet port and even a Wi-Fi wireless network to connect directly to the network and not depend on a third party (the Smart TV, for example).
HEC’s original design did not think about the leap Wi-Fi connectivity has taken in recent years, and that is that now any TV can connect via Wi-Fi at speeds higher than the 100Mbps that are part of the standard, for Therefore, manufacturers prefer to have their own WiFi instead of using the HDMI Ethernet Channel. Right now there is no reason for a TV to add this additional feature, because all devices already have connectivity, so almost no device supports it, therefore, it is hardly used as there are no compatible equipment.
While HEC is not used, ARC is, in fact we already have eARC on Smart TVs which is an improved version. HDMI ARC and HEC use the same pins, so any HDMI cable that supports HEC or ARC will work, however, most cables out there today already support both technologies without issue. Where HEC could be interesting is to transport the audio and video signal many meters via network cable, using HDMI to Ethernet converters for this, in this way, we can transport the HDMI signal through the Ethernet network cable.