Which Ethernet cable is right for me?

Even though it may not appear a significant decision when planning a new machine, choosing the right Ethernet cable is more important than you think. If the cable does not fit, or the data transfer is not optimal, the machine could malfunction. In this article we show you different types of Ethernet cables, so you only have to choose the cable that is best for you.

Industrial Ethernet

Industrial Ethernet is the next step for the digitised factory of tomorrow. Studies show that the fieldbus world is stagnating and the number of Ethernet nodes is increasing – and this with high double-digit growth rates. These systems offer smooth data exchange at all levels of a production plant – from the highest control level to the production level.

The Ethernet cable categories for industrial use

There are basically eight categories of Ethernet cables on the market. For industrial applications, however, we only concentrate on the last three types and leave CAT1 (0.4MHz): telephone, CAT2 (4MHz): ISDN or terminal systems, CAT3 (16MHz): telephone / ISDN 10BASE-T or 100BASE-T4, CAT4 (20MHz): Token Ring on the outside.

Below, we describe the current cable categories and their recommended uses:


CAT5 is the most commonly used type of Ethernet cable today. However, because it is often not listed under “CAT5” but under the terms “Ethernet” or “Profinet“, many users are not aware of it.


CAT5e (“e” – enhanced) is the improved class Allowing faster data speeds.  This is the most common class of industrial ethernet.

CAT6, CAT6a and CAT7:

These are the Ethernet lines of the future because the amount of data and frequency are significantly higher. Applications with this quality often work very well, but the high electrical performance is not yet needed in many cases.

igus® supplies cables for e-chain® systems and has tested the Ethernet cables for millions of cycles. They are therefore qualified for movement at high speeds and accelerations. The chainflex® product range includes the different classes described above all at different construction quality levels and jacket materials (PVC, PUR and TPE).  This offers users the chance to get the right mechanical  cables. All chainflex® cables have corresponding certifications and conformities such as UL, CSA, NFPA-79-2012, EAC, CTP, EtherCAT, CC-Link IE Field and Profinet.

How do I find the ideal cable for my application?

igus® has various tables which aids in finding the ideal cable for your application. The mechanical performance is shown on the x-axis to get the best price-performance ratio and the electrical performance is on the y-axis. Ready-made and tested cables are, of course, also available from the catalogue, without a minimum order quantity and in individually tailored lengths, to the centimetre. Contact us so we can find the correct cable for you!

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