Understanding Z-Wave and mesh networks

When setting up your Ring Alarm system, it's important to understand how your devices communicate with one another so you can set up your Alarm components so they can use the strongest signal possible. This article will help you understand how your Alarm devices communicate.

What is Z-Wave?

Z-Wave is a wireless communication protocol that your Ring Alarm devices use to speak to the Base Station. 

What frequencies does Z-Wave use in the UK and is it different from Wi-Fi?

Yes, Z-Wave uses 868.4 MHz and 869.85 MHz, and Wi-Fi uses 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz. (For more information on Z-Wave and its protocols please visit: https://z-wavealliance.org/.)

Traditional "hub-and-spoke" networks include one central hub or access point in which all devices are connected. You are likely familiar with this network type already, an example is if you have one router (hub) and your wireless devices (spokes) connect to that router. Z-Wave devices create what is called a "mesh network." Unlike a traditional "hub-and-spoke" network where each device only communicates with a central hub (access point), Z-Wave devices can communicate with each other in addition to the central hub. That means that a network of Z-Wave devices will create a net-like "mesh" that has a number of advantages over “hub-and-spoke” networks:

  • Z-Wave networks usually have a greater range than traditional hub-and-spoke arrangements. An Alarm Base Station has a range of about 75 metres on an unobstructed path. See our wireless range guide here for improving range.
  • Because devices can communicate with each other over multiple paths, their already long range can be extended out even further.
  • Mesh networks are more robust than hub-and-spoke arrangements because signals can be re-routed if one of the connections is lost.

Note: When setting up a Z-Wave mesh network, the devices that act as extenders or "nodes" of the mesh are only those that plug into a wall. Battery-operated devices do not generate enough power to act as a mesh node. In the case of the basic devices that come with your Alarm system, it means that your Base Station and Range Extenders will act as mesh “nodes” while your window/door sensors won't extend the Z-Wave signal.

More is better

Another consideration when setting up a Z-Wave mesh network is all Z-Wave devices are compatible with one another and that more repeating nodes may strengthen your network. If you're having a problem with a device reaching your Base Station, you can always use a Z-Wave range extender plugged in between the device and the Base Station to help it communicate.

Remember, when it comes to your mesh network, the more devices you have connected, the stronger your network becomes.

Click here to read our network guide to wireless range and interference.

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