If you need Cell Site Analysis, Disklabs will be able to help. Our team, headed up by Matt Jones, (07973 943 254), will be assist you by talking you through the process, explaining in laymans terms, how we go to the site, (only if it is required), take all the relevant readings for each of the relevant network providers, (O2, Vodafone, Orange, T-Mobile and 3), take them back to the lab, whereby a report is produced. If the work is for a defence case, Matt and his team will check the reports from the prosecution to ensure accuracy. They will also replicate the work to ensure that the readings from the prosecution match those of the his team. If there are any anomalies they will be pointed out. This can often undermine the other sides case.
Technical Background of Cell Site Analysis by Simon Steggles – www.disklabs.com
Mobile phones used today are transceivers which use little power. They combine both a transmitter and a receiver. Although most mobile phones are used to provide a telephone service for the public, they are still radio transmitters and receivers. Because of this, mobile phones behave in the same way that traditional radio equipment does. Mobile phones operate through networks, (which in the UK are run by O2, Vodafone, Orange, 3 and T-Mobile). These networks are GSM, (Global Systems for Mobile communications), and are built around an array of transmitters, receiving stations which cover nearly all of the United Kingdom. Many other countries follow this similar rule; however, they may have different networks run by different companies, (Verizon, AT&T etc).
These transmit and receive stations (some people call them ‘beacons’), are also known as ‘Cell Sites’. Each mast or ‘beacon’consists of multiple receivers and transmitters and of course the relevant aerials associated with each one. These sites are often on masts and can also be sited on tall buildings, (giving clearer transmissions, therefore clearer line of site traffic).
Each cell site has a reference number and name. Using this information, one can state exactly the area of the cell site. From this we can pin point to a very small geographical area if the suspect phone has been used in this area.
Whenever a mobile phone is ‘on’, it scans the radio frequencies assigned to it by its designated network provider, and then links up the cell that gives it the best coverage. This process is called registration, and is of course necessary for the networks so that they can direct incoming or outgoing calls to the correct phone. When travelling, (for example), a phone may move from one cell site to another. This is achieved by the phone evaluating the signal at all times, and switching over to the appropriate best one. This is also logged by the networks and is known as a ‘handover’. The handover also ensures a continuation of the call, rather than the requirement to redial every time a new better cell site is found.
Network providers positioned their cell sites after carrying out extensive testings on the frequency, geographical position, and potential transmission/reception hazards. Extensive maps of these tests are kept by the network providers, showing the specific cover of each transmitter and receiver.
Even when mobile phones are not executing a call, they are still logged on the network providers systems, ready for their next call/message. This information is not stored historically, however when a call is made or received, it is. When a phone is ‘live’ i.e. switched on and connected to the network providers, it is possible to track it by the non recorded records which get switched on manually.
Geographical locations can be specified for a mobile phone by referring to the call detail records, (CDR’s). This can give you information of which cell site was being used. From checking the records about the specific site in question, it is then possible to find out about if the aerial was a full 360 degrees, or an azimuth of 120 degrees, (these can vary). If the call was coming from aerial 3 on a cell site, then it is right to assume that the specific geographic location of that cell phone is now only a third or the original area it was thought to be in, (e.g. If a call was made from the south of a cell site, then it is likely that the mobile phone was within a reasonable, (varies) distance from the south of that cell site).
Things to take into consideration: