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MHL Consortium aims to connect mobile devices, high-definition TVs

A new consortium is planning to connect high-definition TVs with mobile devices via a thin cable that will optimize audio and video collected on mobile devices to be viewed on TV displays and at the same time charge the mobile device. And while the mobile device is charging, the consumer can use the TV’s remote control to operate the smart phone, or the person can use the smart phone to work the remote control.
The MHL Consortium (Mobile High-Definition Consortium) was formed in April and is supported by TV and mobile device manufacturers Nokia Corp., Sony Corp., Samsung Corp., Toshiba and silicon chip provider Silicon Image Inc. Along with the founders, a number of companies are adopting the standard.
The consortium, which is displaying its wares at next week’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, expects products on the market early next year. It forecasts that in 2011, millions of mobile devices will be MHL-enabled as well as millions of mobile displays (think TVs) will be MHL-enabled, said Tim Wong, president of the consortium.
There are seven key features to the MHL standard:
 Uncompressed 1080p video link;
 Surround sound-quality audio link;
 The cable charges the mobile device when it is in use;
 The product can be used with existing remote controls;
 The product uses the same content protections that the HDMI standard uses today;
 The cable is thin and portable;
 And it works with existing TVs via an HDMI dongle.
The standard cable length will be two meters but the consortium expects some cables to be as long as five meters. Wong said he can envision that game makers will want cables that can reach from the TV to the couch.
“People are using their smart phones for everything. Being able to provide a high-quality audio/visual experience is huge and that’s why MHL is here,” Wong said. Going forward, mobile device makers will integrate more high-definition capabilities into their devices. As people take high-resolution photos and video, and as people download more high-definition content on their smart phones, they want to be able to view that content whenever and on whatever display they want.
“The mobile device is a key source for high-definition content and entertainment so the device needs to be integrated with the high-def TV,” said Brad Bramy, director of marketing for the organization. “Over the next year you are going to see HD content more prevalent on mobile devices.”
The consortium found that it didn’t want to add another port to a mobile device or to a TV display, so the cable uses the device’s existing USB port and the TV’s existing HDMI port. However, HDMI ports have 19 pins to connect, which makes them pretty unforgiving. The MHL cable has only five ports so it can tolerate more.
Because it can be a challenge to keep mobile devices charged, the MHL cable also recharges the mobile device when it is plugged in. “The TV becomes a recharging station,” Bramy noted.
While the consortium initially is targeting mobile devices and high-definition TV manufacturers, it believes the product could also be used in in-vehicle and in-flight entertainment systems, the mobile office, media players and home theaters. In the enterprise, employees on the road could give their presentation from their smart phone on a computer display and at the same time, charge their phone, Bramy noted.


Tracy Ford
Former Associate Publisher and Executive Editor, RCR Wireless NewsCurrently HetNet Forum Director703-535-7459 Ford has spent more than two decades covering the rapidly changing wireless industry, tracking its changes as it grew from a voice-centric marketplace to the dynamic data-intensive industry it is today. She started her technology journalism career at RCR Wireless News, and has held a number of titles there, including associate publisher and executive editor. She is a winner of the American Society of Business Publication Editors Silver Award, for both trade show and government coverage. A graduate of the Minnesota State University-Moorhead, Ford holds a B.S. degree in Mass Communications with an emphasis on public relations.

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