Market Insight

MHL Shows Potential for Mobile HD Connections

September 08, 2011

Randy Lawson Randy Lawson Subject Matter Expert

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Mobile High-Definition Link (MHL) is one of the newer high-definition technologies that is linking consumer devices today. Originally started by Silicon Image in Janurary 2008, MHL became a consortium in Spring 2010, primarily backed by Nokia, Samsung, Silicon Image, Sony and Toshiba. Currently boasting over 60 adopters, up from approximately 10 at the beginning of 2011, it is becoming increasingly apparent that the MHL interface has very strong growth potential, owing to the dominant position HDMI has established in HD-capable CE devices and the rapid adoption of HD-video applications in mobile CE devices such as smartphones and now tablet PCs.

MHL utilizes a 5-wire interface, which will likely result in dual-case use of existing connectors, such as USB, on mobile source devices by OEMs. For instance, source devices such as tablets, PCs, and phones could interconnect through a MHL linkage using the common micro-USB connector while receiver devices like TVs and monitors could dual-use HDMI connectors, eliminating the need for yet another connector type to be designed into mobile devices, which are typically starved for physical space anyway. Furthermore, MHL is designed to provide power to the source device, enabling users to use mobile devices as a HD-video source for prolonged periods of time without worrying about battery life.

Whether MHL will see similar growth that its cousin technology HDMI has shown over the past several years is still an open question. HDMI gained prominence by being a first mover interface technology in the early 2000s for all-digital HD audio/video interconnect right at the time that HDTVs and HD broadcasting was starting to take off, thus benefiting from several market dynamics. With an ever growing number of mobile CE devices with high resolution—yet small—displays , 3G connectivity, and HD video capture and rending capability, some form of easy HD-capable interconnect between portable devices and larger displays is quickly becoming a requirement.  However, MHL is likely to face challenges to market penetration due to wireless alternatives that are emerging in the marketplace, such as WiGig and WirelessHD, which will provide wireless options for the gigabit-per-second connectivity required to support uncompressed HD video.

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