Zigbee Networking Basics

Zigbee looks set to become the main home automation network protocol.

Although it is designed to be easy to setup it is important that you have a basic understanding of how it works.

These are my personal notes on Zigbee that be be helpful if you are new to the protocol.

What is Zigbee? – Zigbee is a low power, low data rate (250kbps) wireless protocol used primarily for Home automation and industrial control,building automation,sensor data collection etc – Wiki

Zigbee devices have a range (1 hop) of 10 to 20m and to be certified must have a battery life of 2 years.

Network Topologies

Zigbee networks can be configured to operate in one of three topologies.

  • Star
  • Tree
  • Mesh


Full Function Device (FFD)- Can communicates with all node types and can operate in one of three modes:

  • PAN Coordinator: Sends beacon frames, provides routing information, manages short, network-specific addresses. Every network requires one
  • Router.-Relay messages between nodes. Not required in simple networks.
  • Normal End device.-Sends and receives messages. The only node type that can sleep.

There must be 1 coordinator on a Zigbee network.

Reduced Function Device (RFD): Can only talk to a single
FFD. These are end nodes.

Network Addresses

All devices have a 64bit MAC address assigned by the manufacturer.

The MAC address is mapped to a unique 16 bit network address by the coordinator and assigned when the device joins the network. This is the Short address.

The coordinator has a network address of 0.

Zigbee also provides support for group addresses which allows message delivery to multiple nodes.

Device Binding

Zigbee also supports device binding were you can bind a device e.g a switch to another device e.g a bulb or to a group of devices.

Message Types

Zigbee supports three messaging types as per IP networks.

  • Unicast– one to one
  • Multicast -1 to a group
  • Broadcast -1 to all

PAN Address

This is a 16 bit address assigned by the coordinating when the network is created. It is equivalent to the IP network address.

The PAN address must be unique.

Application Addresses

A Zigbee node can support up to 240 applications.

Each application is assigned an endpoint number in the range 1-240. This is similar to tcp/ip ports.

A broadcast endpoint of 255 is also available.


Data can be encrypted at one of three levels:

  • MAC
  • Network
  • Application

Encryption uses AES-128 and shared keys.

Example Zigbee Devices

  1. Philips Hue lighting and other device like motion sensors
  2. Amazon Echo dot Plus (Zigbee hub)
  3. Bosch Security Systems

Popularity ZigBee vs Z-Wave




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