Technologies to Build a Wireless Mesh Network: Z-Wave vs Zigbee

By: Segiy Sergienko, 29 Oct 2018
3   min read
Reading Time: 3 minutes

In Z-Wave vs Zigbee one can see two alternative yet similar technological solutions for building wireless networks based on mesh technology. With their help, one can implement a smart-home system inexpensively and simply. Deploying projects on the basis of Z-Wave and Zigbee protocols greatly reduces the difficulty of wiring, because the installation of the equipment comes down to merely the competent placement of end devices for the coverage area.

In this article, we will provide a brief Z-Wave vs Zigbee comparison and consider their practical value to users.


Initially, this wireless communication protocol was introduced to the public in 2001 as a universal solution for home and office automation – using low-energy radio waves for devices consuming limited amounts of energy. To build a mesh network based on Z-Wave, equipment certified by Z-Wave Alliance (more than 300 companies under the guidance of Sigma Designs) is used. All compatible devices operate on a plug-and-play basis. This means that Z-Wave is completely adaptable so that the user can build a network with their own hands, without the need of professional skills. There is also an open source API for the protocol – OpenZWave – that allows for creating devices and applications compatible with Z-Wave.

On the one hand, the need to certify equipment for compliance with a proprietary standard limits customers in the equipment selection, on the other hand, it ensures the increased compatibility and security of Z-Wave solutions (after the connection is established, all data exchanges are encrypted according to the AES-128 standard).

As for the features fundamentally important to a typical user, they cannot fail to impress. Firstly, the energy consumption of a typical end device is so low that some can successfully operate for months powered by ordinary consumer batteries. Secondly, Z-Wave operates in a low-noise range of radio frequencies up to 1 GHz, which allows compatible equipment not to conflict with other radio and electrical devices in the house, such as FM radio receivers, Wi-Fi access points or microwaves. The maximum network bandwidth is relatively low and capped at 100 Kbit/s (although, in fairness, we must note that this indicator is not critical for smart-home equipment). (Read more about this technology)


Unlike the proprietary Z-Wave, Zigbee, released in 2003, is an open-source technology. It is also a low-power solution that allows the use of devices with autonomous power sources (as in the previous case, some devices can be powered just by batteries).

When considering the main advantages of Zigbee, it is impossible not to note its outstanding scalability (the network can include up to 65,000 (!) devices), as well as a bandwidth slightly higher than that characteristic of Z-Wave (250 Kbit/s against 100 Kbit/s – sounds good, right?). We must note that in this case the “usable” transfer speed will be about 30-40 Kbit/s between the neighboring nodes and 5-25 Kbit/s over repeaters. The distance between network workstations in the case of Zigbee can be dozens of meters indoors and hundreds of meters outdoors, and the coverage area itself can reach several thousand square meters indoors and up to several hectares in open space. Zigbee’s transmission encryption is the same as the competitor – AES-128.

It is noteworthy that this standard provides for the possibility of using channels in several frequency bands (868 MHz, 915 MHz and 2.4 GHz, depending on the legislation of the country where the network is being deployed).

Features – Comparative Table

And now let us sum up the above information in the form of a comparative table of Z-Wave vs Zigbee.

Feature Z-Wave Zigbee
Supported radio frequency ranges 1 GHz (low interference) 868 MHz (some European countries), 915 MHz (US and Australia), and 2,4 GHz (Wi-Fi range, available in most countries of the world
Maximum allowed number of nodes in one network 232 65 000
Maximum transmission speed Up to 100 Kbit/s Up to 250 Kbit/s
Security protocols S2 Security IEEE 802.15.4-based ZigBee Wireless Security (centralized and decentralized network models)
Advantages Network construction simplicity, great device compatibility Large network capacity, higher maximum transmission speed


In the niche of smart-home system technologies, in recent years both Z-Wave and Zigbee became worthy alternatives to the traditional Wi-Fi. Which to choose for your system depends on a number of factors. We are certain that the average user is unlikely to note any particular differences.

If you are interested in deploying a smart home system, contact us now! Our experts have enormous expertise in this field and we will be happy to help with implementation or advice on any issues that may arise.

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