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Zigbee is a wireless networking protocol widely used in home automation applications. The range of a Zigbee device depends on various factors.

In indoor environments, most Zigbee devices can communicate over a distance of 70 to 100 meters. However, the architectural design of a building impacts the network's performance. That is where Zigbee repeaters come in!

Similar to Wi-Fi networks, repeaters are also available for Zigbee networks. However, it is interesting to know that many networked Zigbee devices perform the additional task of repeaters. So, you can easily extend the range of your Zigbee network by deploying your existing Zigbee devices strategically.

An Overview of Zigbee

Zigbee is one of the most common things that come to mind when discussing IoT or home automation. It is a powerful and versatile networking standard specifically developed for home automation. Zigbee-Alliance is a non-profit organization responsible for maintaining and publishing Zigbee standards.

Contrary to Wi-Fi, Zigbee consumes little power, making it possible to include many battery-operated smart home devices and sensors into the automation scheme. In addition, Zigbee is an open-source platform, and that's why hundreds of manufacturers, including giants like Google, Ikea, Intel, Apple, Huawei, Qualcomm, Amazon, and many more, are making Zigbee compliant devices.

Range

In indoor environments, Zigbee devices can communicate across 75 to 100 meters. In open-air, you can expect link distances up to 300 meters. One of the best features of Zigbee is its tendency to operate as a mesh network. The mesh topology in Zigbee networks minimizes the risk of single-point failures. Thus, each device included in a Zigbee network serves as a node and plays its role in network strengthening.

Zigbee's beauty enables devices from different manufacturers to work together, provided that these devices are Zigbee compliant. Samsung, Apple, Google, Amazon and many other technology giants are making smart home devices and appliances. 

Zigbee Mesh

As discussed earlier, one of the most powerful features of the Zigbee protocol is its mesh networking. Zigbee mesh acts as the backbone of any home automation scheme. Zigbee devices can communicate directly through this mesh network without an intermediate route or hub. Another benefit of the Zigbee mesh network is its ability to operate decentralized.

In a mesh network, connected devices (with a few exceptions) act as nodes. These nodes are interconnected with other nodes, and that's how each node remains accessible through multiple routes. In a Zigbee mesh, information about possible ways between nodes is updated dynamically.

The structure of a Zigbee mesh comes with inherited safety against single-point failures. Many Zigbee devices take part in networking while fulfilling their primary roles. Whereas a Zigbee network can further be extended and strengthened with the help of a Zigbee hub. The Zigbee hub ensures communication between devices whenever the mesh fails.

What Is the Zigbee End-Range?

Zigbee nodes use low-power radio signals to communicate wirelessly, limiting their range to 10 to 30 meters indoors. The end range of Zigbee devices varies from vendor to vendor. Understandably, battery-operated Zigbee nodes offer less transmission distance than directly powered nodes and dedicated repeaters. Theoretically, Zigbee has up to 980 feet of range in the open air.

Zigbee Repeaters

What Are Zigbee Repeaters?

A repeater is a device that receives the signal and retransmits it to increase its reach. In a Zigbee network, most AC-powered devices act as Zigbee repeaters. Smart plugs, receptacles, and dimmers are a few good examples of Zigbee repeaters. You can consider dedicated Zigbee repeaters if you have very few and far-located devices on your Zigbee network.

Are All Zigbee Products Repeaters?

No! Battery-operated Zigbee devices don't repeat signals, and we cannot consider these devices as repeaters. As a rule of thumb, remember that most mains-powered Zigbee devices perform as repeaters. However, some smart bulbs can be an exception. Moreover, Zigbee smart plugs perform as well as dedicated repeaters.  

Interesting Repeater Ideas!

1. Smart Bulbs

Zigbee smart bulbs come equipped with built-in Zigbee radios. It is easy to integrate Zigbee smart bulbs into a Zigbee mesh network. However, using these bulbs as repeaters is still debatable.

Many smart bulbs tend to operate as repeaters. So, these bulbs can also participate in networking in a power-on state. The small buffer size of smart bulbs can easily get flooded when they work as repeaters. That's why many experts believe that smart bulbs are unreliable repeaters.

Using smart bulbs as repeaters is not generally recommended because repeaters require constant power. At the same time, a smart bulb can act as a repeater in energized state only. Other end devices may disconnect from the network with no power to the repeater. So, most smart bulbs are designed to be deployed as end devices only. Another disadvantage of using smart bulbs as repeaters is the increase in network congestion.

In short, a Zigbee smart bulb that is directly connected to a Zigbee hub may strengthen the Zigbee Mesh. However, it would help to avoid using them as sole repeaters.

2. Smart Plugs

Zigbee smart plugs can be considered an excellent alternative for dedicated range extenders. These plugs can reliably extend the range of a Zigbee network because they usually remain plugged in and most electrical outlets remain generally energized. Electrical outlets are found pretty much everywhere in modern homes. So, it is easy to deploy smart plugs across the house to achieve better coverage.

The dual functionality of Zigbee smart plugs makes them good repeaters. On the one hand, you can use these plugs to remote control various small to medium-sized appliances. On the other hand, these smart plugs can act like dedicated extenders or repeaters.

In addition to extending the range of your Zigbee network, smart plugs can also control a TV or a small space heater. Another benefit of smart plugs is that they can be configured to power on or off the connected load as per the user-defined schedule.

Zigbee smart plugs cost less than the purpose-built range extenders, and they last much longer than smart bulbs. Like smart plugs, smart outlet receptacles can also be used as Zigbee range extenders. Smart dimmers can also perform well as repeaters.

3. Dedicated Repeaters

Zigbee repeaters come in various shapes and sizes, but almost all of them are powered by regular electrical outlets. In contrast, some USB-powered dedicated repeaters are also available on the market. Theoretically, batteries can power a Zigbee repeater. However, it isn't a great idea because wireless data transmission requires a lot of power. 

Typically, dedicated repeaters can't do anything beyond signal repetition, and that's why people like to go with other dual-purpose smart devices such as; switches, dimmers, or receptacles. Interestingly, both; dedicated extenders and smart plugs cost almost the same amount of money.

However, not every Zigbee smart plug or receptacle will be compatible with your hub. So, ensure that the smart plugs you acquire as repeaters are compatible with your Zigbee hub.

Undoubtedly, dedicated Zigbee repeaters work better than smart bulbs for range extension. But there is no difference between repeaters and smart plugs. In case you are facing network degradation issues and have got range-related problems, then it is better to go with a dedicated repeater.

Common Questions Relating to The Zigbee Range

Is Zigbee Secure?

Yes! Zigbee networking protocol has compelling security arrangements. Zigbee's security infrastructure is built in compliance with IEEE 802.15. 4 standards. Zigbee features various security provisions, including frame protection, key establishment, and key transportation via symmetric cryptography.

For data encryption and authentication, Zigbee uses the AES algorithm. In a Zigbee network, entire over-the-air communications are encrypted. In a typical Zigbee network, a Trust Center node maintains the entire security mechanism. 

How Many Nodes Can I Have?

The number of nodes required per Zigbee network depends upon the size of the house, the extent of automation, and various other factors. Theoretically, a Zigbee network can have around 65 thousand nodes.

However, typical Zigbee networks contain 5 to 15 nodes. Generally, a higher number of nodes is required in industrial applications. We have case studies on the internet about using up to 400 Zigbee devices within one network. 

Is Zigbee Better Than Z-Wave?

Well, both Z-Wave and Zigbee are excellent PAN communication protocols. In some disciplines, Z-Wave outperforms Zigbee, and in some departments, Zigbee is better than Z-Wave and others. The biggest problem with the Zigbee is its tendency to interfere with Wi-Fi networks because both operate in the same frequency band.

Zigbee offers better transmission rates than Z-Wave as far as the speed is concerned. Zigbee can accommodate several hundred to several thousand devices and unlimited hops. In comparison, Z-Wave allows simultaneous connection with up to 232 devices and four hops. 

The Verdict

Zigbee is a reliable communication protocol that offers a reasonable range. Homeowners who need to enhance the range of their Zigbee network can consider extending it using repeaters. It's great that almost every AC-powered device on a Zigbee network operates as a repeater, too – by default.

Zigbee is as good or even better than Z-Wave and Bluetooth in performance and security. Zigbee keeps it flexible for consumers when it comes to hardware selection. Using Zigbee, you can create a network of different devices from different manufacturers, provided that they are Zigbee compliant.

Sources

https://zigbeealliance.org/

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