What's a cheap zigbee repeater?

JD, do you consider bulbs (A19, BR30, Recessed, Lighstrips, etc.) as “plugged in”? Did I misinterpret your statement as inclusive of those? If I did, I may have caused myself a lot of grief, and time wasted troubleshooting, as a result.

Bulbs are tricky because there are two different zigbee profiles used for them: zigbee home automation profile (ZHA) which is the one used by smartthings, and the zigbee light link profile (ZLL) which is the one used by the Phillips hue bridge. And this can get confusing across regions: for example, LIGHTIFY bulbs are ZLL in Europe, but ZHA in the US.


issues with individual brands

The US Osram lightify bulbs when connected directly to the SmartThings hub and on power will reportedly act as repeaters for other ZHA devices on that smartthings network, But there have been a few reports from community members who said it didn’t work while others said it did.

Hue bulbs connected directly to the SmartThings hub without a Hue bridge definitely will act as ZHA repeaters (the bulbs shift to the ZHA profile when connected in this way), and a number of members are using them–but they have proven to be less reliable than other device classes. The $15 Hue white is a very inexpensive zigbee repeater, but it may only be reliable for other bulbs. And Remember that the bulb must be on power in order to repeat. It doesn’t have to look like it’s on, but it does have to be receiving current.

Also, officially SmartThings recommends only using bridge-connected Hue bulbs because the Hue bulbs cannot be reset on their own. So once you connect them directly to the SmartThings hub, you cannot move them back again to a Hue bridge unless you buy an additional device to do the reset (usually the Lutron connected bulb remote, $30 at Home Depot. You reset one bulb at a time, so you only need one of the Lutron devices even if you want to reset multiple bulbs. )

Cree bulbs can be used as ZHA repeaters, but they appear to be missing a couple of Zigbee clusters, so they aren’t always reliable repeaters for other ZHA devices. Some people use them and they work great, some find that some messages get lost.

GE link bulbs are unreliable. They tend to drop off the network every so often. This is a firmware problem that GE has acknowledged, and is the reason why these bulbs are not on the official SmartThings compatibility list. People still use them as lights because they are very inexpensive, although the late 2015 price reduction on the Hue whites puts them in the same range. But the GE links really cannot be recommended for use as repeaters because their unreliability puts the other devices depending on them to repeat at risk.

So with bulbs there isn’t quite the same standard as there is for other mains powered devices, and there are two different bulb protocols, and of course the bulb must be on power if you want it to repeat, so really for those you have to check by each model. Some may work, but some will not, and some seem to be unreliable.

when you add a new repeater to your network

Finally, and this applies to any repeater, not just bulbs, when you add a new repeater the other devices on the network will not be aware of it until you do a zigbee heal. It’s easy to do: remove the batteries from the hub and take it off power for at least 15 minutes. Leave all the other devices on power, including bulbs. Then put the hub back on power. At that point, all the devices on the network should rebuild their own neighbor tables. This can take a while to complete, so you might not see improvements until the next day. But it should ensure that any device that is within range of a bulb that can repeat for it will use it in the future.

Sorry, I know that’s a long answer, but bulbs are complicated.


Thanks, JD.

I just got an xStick and XCTU Saturday, and after installing and running a scan yesterday it seems to indicate that they don’t. I have a bunch of the OSRAM recessed units and it appears, even though they’re “R” devices, they only connect to the coordinator and the Zigbee outlets (which definitely are acting as Routers).

I don’t have the screencaptures here at work, and I want to do a bit more analysis of the old/new (after adding several more Zigbee outlets) scan results, but I’m pretty sure they’re not repeating. I’ll definitely post something up, with pictures, once I’ve had a chance to do that.

Osram drives me crazy. Some members say they do repeat, some members say they don’t, we know they have both ZHA and ZLL models. And multiple firmware versions, which you will only be able to update if you have the lightify Gateway.

@Sticks18 might know under what conditions the Osram Lightify bulbs repeat.

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Yeah, well they have certainly caused me a lot of grief in that I had assumed they do repeat, and was counting on that to create a nice robust mesh in the house. As it turns out, according to XCTU I only had two Routers - one coordinator and one repeater, a Zigbee outlet clear at the other end of a rather large ranch house(!). Not good.

How much of the recent issues that I’ve had with reliability had to do with ST, and how much they had to do with that, I do not know. I suspect that a fair chunk of the frustration that I’ve experienced and time I’ve spent troubleshooting, re-configuring, 'splainin to my wife, etc., are a result of them not repeating.

With respect to OSRAM firmware, they now have a “unified” Zigbee 3.0 firmware, at least in the US. That apparently does both ZHA and ZLL, and it’s what I have now that I’ve updated all of my various units. I posted up somewhere else the current versions of the (US) firmware. No idea if they are distributing that in the UK/EU yet, but I think their intent is to have a single F/W image for everybody. Note that even though the new firmware is supposed to do ZLL, the OSRAMs won’t pair with the Hue hub.

Sadly I can’t help here. Zigbee bulbs in general seem to have a “they do”/“they don’t” thing going with regards to repeating, and my experience has been that none of them repeat when on ST, at least not consistently.

I didn’t think 3.0 was in the wild yet, but this would make sense how they got the color loop operating on US devices, but I wonder why they still connect to ST as if they’re ZHA. I know ST is a ZHA hub, but ZLL devices still show up as ZLL.


@johnr has been using Hue bulbs connected directly to the SmartThings hub as ZHA repeaters for about a year, and but he reports they haven’t always been reliable for him. He has an XCTU map with them.

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I’m with @Sticks18 Scott on this. I know they repeat each others traffic but they always seem to end up not routing traffic if they can avoid it. Maybe they are just slow to respond and traffic ends up finding another route I don’t know why? I haven’t spent much time looking into it.

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OK, good to know, if disappointing.

So I guess in the US the Lowe’s Iris Smart plug 3210L ( which has both a zwave and a zigbee repeater) is the least expensive option for most people, especially if you get it on sale.


Some people have reported that the plug was only repeat for Z wave if the plug is switched on, which is a little weird but maybe true.

Yeah, I think that the message needs to get out that, at least on ST (today), Zigbee bulbs should not be expected to act as repeaters/routers. Knowing that would have saved me some grief, I think.

Scatter a few of those Iris outlets around in order to get a good solid mesh for cheap. I’m going to start with one in every other room, roughly, and see if that gives me good coverage, redundancy, and signal strength.

If you need the Zwave mesh, too, pair them twice and just plug them in. Then (since apparently they don’t repeat the Zwave signal unless on) turn them on and leave them on but don’t plug anything into them (unless of course you’re ok with things being always on).

“Classic example of simple-in-theory but difficult-in-practice,” he muttered as he walked off… :weary:

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The ZLL bulbs will repeat for other ZLL bulbs, though. So as always, nothing is simple. :wink:

Thing is, it can be simple. We know which ones use which protocol. So why isnt this well defined and laid out for everyone? Why are we left here questioning this? ST wants to be all Apple like and ‘it just works’ but yet tries to be Android and let others ‘hack it’. Pick one and either give us a system that ‘just works’ or give us the info we want/need.

I know zigbee has different ‘versions’. And that ZHA and ZLL are different. Then add in on that every manufacture can add on and use the protocol differently. But ST knows what works and behaves in such ways…or if they dont they better figure it out. But when their own documentation on ‘repeaters’ is so vague you cant make any logical decisions on the system, how does that help us?

I understand corporate policies and staying agnostic to products outside their product line…but if you are going to have a compatible devices list, at least give us the full info on each one of them. I know they want us to buy their own branded smart outlets to be the recommended repeater, but if they are going to support other devices give us that info as well.

Leaving us here to guess and try to back door into this by having to become protocol hackers is just crazy. If they want to be a closed environment then thats fine, quit supporting other devices. Or just give us solid answers.

Yea Im grumpy tonight.

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Yeah, I understand the feeling. From the first day I bought the system I wished that zigbee devices were in blue and Z wave devices were in green or something so they would be easier to visualize as separate networks. Which is what they really are.

I know that’s not the SmartThings philosophy, and I understand why, I’m just saying that personally I think the distinction does matter sometimes. If only in the fact that the range of the devices is really different now That Zwave plus is available.

But that’s just the way I look at it, I understand that other people might have different preferences. I guess what I’d really like is for that to be an account option, can I choose to have a protocol indicator. Obviously there are other things that are a lot higher priority, though. :sunglasses:

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Take a minute to look at what we are discussing here. The Hue bulbs repeat ZigBee traffic there is no doubt about that. This community (created by SmartThings) has recognized and pointed out they don’t appear to repeat traffic for non Hue devices well, that is all we are saying. But somehow you put all that on SmartThings saying they better figure this stuff out. Well if you were to ask them instead of bash them you would probably find out they don’t officially support Hue bulbs directly connected to the SmartThings hub. And I for one am glad they have this stance and here is why:

I like having my Hue bulbs directly connected to my hub. Even though the Hue bulbs may not be good ZigBee repeaters when connected to a HA profile there are still advantages to doing this. One of the biggest ones for me is my Hue bulbs can be much further away from my hub because my other ZigBee routers will route packets to them. So in other words if I had to connect my Hue bulbs directly to the Hue hub most of my bulls would be out of range. The fact that SmartThings lets them connect saves me a ton of money and they work great for me.

I just had to chime in and say I don’t think it is fair to put that on them. If it wasn’t for this community I highly doubt anyone would even be discussing how well the various light link devices work when connected to the home automation profile. I’m going to say it! I still love my SmartThings network. Yea its been a rocky relationship and she may be high maintenance but she is still the best looking gal at the dance!! I’m not going anywhere.

So I would like to close by saying I’m not going to get in a pissing match over this. If you have technical questions I can help with I will do my best to help answer them but if you want to take this conversation in some other negative direction you will not hear anything more from me.


I’m not saying change anything, just give us documentation. I’m happy Hue works. What I’m not happy about is the fact it is the only device we have any serious details about. If that is because the community did all the work, then that is a failure on ST’s part I think. We know that Hue is ZLL, we know that the bulbs repeat their own ZLL network. But outside the blanket statement of ‘most plugged in devices are repeaters’ we don’t really know what works right.

I am 100% behind community based support. I am a linux sysadmin by trade so half my work is doing nothing but adding to or finding community based support. So the fact we know so much about Hue is great. I just want to know more about generic zigbee.

ST chose to lean heavily on zigbee. Even changing up their store listing to more prominently feature the zigbee based GE switches. All ST devices are zigbee. Yet outside of their smart plug we dont have any details on how to make their main network mesh better. “Most plugged in devices are repeaters”, then we have so many caveats already or so much hearsay. Add to that the fact that ST actively promotes the fact other devices work with their system, but gives you no indication of what really works. Its this shaky half step of openness that makes us have so many problems.

Their zigbee devs/engineers I would have to guess know a little more than most of us, I say most cause there are people here with TONS of knowledge, and sharing that info would be nice. A simple note on the compatible list is all I ask for. Something they already do, if you look at the list, all GE zigbee devices they spell out as repeaters. None of the bulbs give any indication of that. No news is good news?

More info is all I’m asking, not asking for any changes… aside from the usual stability changes

That’s my thought. In most cases, it “just works”. But, then there’re the 10-20% on the far end of the distribution that ST still has to support. For those of us in that boat, more details in the specs for the devices would be helpful. Protocol (ZHA, ZLL, Zwave), Router/Repeater (Yes, No, with caveats), etc. That way I think you could have a little more certainty about what your network would look like as you’re assembling various pieces.

In my own case, I made some assumptions on the basis of the “Most plugged in devices are repeaters” statement, and am pretty certain that it’s caused me quite a bit of frustration and time spent troubleshooting in order to get a functional and stable network. That should not happen.

I also think that it would be very helpful for us power users to be able to get some network information from within the platform. Not in the app, necessarily, but certainly in the IDE. The only way I was able to really figure out what was going on was to buy the Digi xStick and use XCTU to map the network. That should not be necessary.


I broke down and got my hands on an xStick and mapped out my v1 mesh with XCTU. It was pretty interesting.

I have a bunch of Link bulbs which advertise as routers, but don’t seem to do much of that. I find it interesting that the Links don’t seem to be showing a LQI/signal-strength value for both directions in XCTU, while my OSRAM and Hues (which pretty much everything on my mesh is routing through) do. I believe I saw one device at the fringe of the mesh route through a Link, but it’s in the garage behind a metal door and likely can’t reach the OSRAM/Hue/SP-outlets/Hub.

Part of the routing algorithm is to rank neighbors based on this (link cost calculation.) Are the Links just not providing an LQI and getting pushed to the bottom of the list? Maybe they’re ranked so low that literally anything else with a signal will be a preferable router to an end device. I don’t know enough about the lower layers of ZigBee to really say.

TL;DR: Links don’t route. Hues do. ST/Iris outlets seem to work even better.

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I’m not sure if this has been mentioned but the CREE LED bulbs act as repeaters as long as the light socket is always energized. You don’t have to have the CREE bulb illuminated to repeat Zigbee signals either. Best part is, they are only $15!

Had a chance to work with the xStick and XCTU software a bit and thought I’d report back. First screenshot is my “before” network “mesh”. As you can see, it’s not much of a mesh. Only the coordinator and one router/repeater (both highlighted) actually talking to any of the devices; everybody else is just listening, and in many cases only to one of the two. Not very robust.

Then I added three of those Iris outlets, so I now have 5 total “known” routers. I placed them so that they’re reasonably well distributed through a very long, relatively narrow ranch house. None of them is more than about 25’ apart and they’re generally separated by one room. Big difference. From left to right as you’re looking at the front door; Master Bedroom, network closet near the Den (the hub), Family room, Spare bedroom, Garage. They’re laid out accordingly in the “after” picture below. The green router/repeater is the xStick; it doesn’t count as it’s not always going to be there.

Note that in this second screenshot I’ve grouped and highlighted the lights in the rooms rather than the routers/repeaters, so that I have a better idea of what’s what. You can clearly see the difference in connectivity here; most nodes now have at least two, and in many cases three nodes to listen to. That looks and feels a lot more like a mesh to me!

And, no, I don’t know why some of those leaf nodes didn’t show up in the second scan. I let it run for an hour, but just a few of them showed up.

Anyway, an interesting exercise and I think at this point I’ve done about all I can to ensure that if there’s a command sent, it’ll get to the appropriate device. The huge difference this has made tempts me to pull all of those bulbs that I moved over to the Hue hub last weekend back, if only just to see if they’re improved. But, they seem to be working fine on the Philips hub, and I’ve spent plenty of time futzing with this stuff over the last month, so I’m probably going to leave sleeping dogs lie for a while.

I should also add that I have not done any testing, yet, to see what I can see regarding Cree and GE Link bulbs acting as routers/repeaters.


Actually, I take a least part of that back. The “Pantry” light in my second screenshot is a GE Link bulb. Looks like it’s only listening to me.

EDIT: I went ahead and paired spare GE Link and Cree bulbs and ran an XCTU scan again. Results below. Definitely looks like the Cree bulbs act as router/repeaters.

However, it doesn’t look like the signal strength of the transmitter in the bulb is very good; check out the color-coding of a couple of those links. Drilling down on those indicates that the downlink signal is good (green), while the upstream signal isn’t. LQI values, for example, are 246 and 23 (downstream to the bulb and upstream from the bulb) for one of the links. The others aren’t much better, and the best link is to the coordinator, which is only about 10 feet away. I don’t know enough about Zigbee to fully grok the meaning/impact of all of that, but I’m guessing that it’s not good.