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World's first ZigBee phone unveiled

But when you're the first product to support an unratified standard--for low-power networking, in this case--the question is, "What does it connect to?"

South Korean mobile partnership Pantech&Curitel claims to have made history this week by launching the first handset to support ZigBee.

ZigBee--an emerging low-power networking standard--could allow any device containing a microprocessor to be given a wireless network connection that would let it be remotely controlled or act as a sensor.

Experts such as Ethernet creator Bob Metcalfe believe ZigBee could be massive within a few years. It currently awaits ratification as a standard.

Despite this, Pantech&Curitel has come out with its P1 ZigBee-enabled phone, which they are demonstrating at the ZigBee Alliance Festival in Seoul. Pantech&Curitel claims the P1 could be used to control domestic electrical appliances and monitor temperature and humidity.

If the home also had a ZigBee-compatible alarm system, the phone could be alerted about possible break-ins, Pantech&Curiteln said in a statement.

"The worldwide IT industry is progressing toward environments where wireless is ubiquitous," said Mi-Hyang Han of Pantech&Curitel, suggesting that handsets could be used to access a wide array of wireless applications. "Mobile phones, which are becoming more like commodities, are likely to be the hub of this new era."

But according to Cambridge Silicon Radio (CSR), a UK wireless chip manufacturer, ZigBee is still too young for work.

"The standard's not been ratified, so it's hard to see how there can be a phone out there that is ZigBee-ratified," said Eric Jansen, CSR vice-president for North America. "My first question is, 'What will it connect to?'"

The products section of the ZigBee Alliance's Web site just contains a logo saying "coming soon."

Jansen acknowledged that the first examples of any network technology have trouble finding things to connect to.

"This particular product is a bit before its time, but good on them for pulling it off," Jansen added.

Graeme Wearden of ZDNet UK reported from London.