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Mobile phones – where is my mast?

March 01 2015

Forensic Science Interpreting The Evidence

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Cell Site Analysis

Frequently we receive enquiries where solicitors or defendants have visited a local area and observed many more telecommunications masts (i.e. cell sites) than the prosecution mapping indicates there are, often closer than the cell site that was connected at the pertinent time. This poses the question as to why the telephone didn’t connect to the closer cell.

Some of the masts observed will relate to a different network provider to that used by the defendant, whilst others are for non-public communication technologies such as the emergency services’ Airwave or the railways’ communication system, GSM-R. Interestingly, there may also be measures in a network’s design for a call to make a connection to a mast other than the one geographically closest to the caller.

Occasionally we receive a call concerning the opposite difficulty, i.e. where the defence team has visited an area and can’t find the cell sites in the locations marked by the prosecution. To appease councils and local residents, network providers often attempt to disguise or hide their cell sites. In our work around the country conducting cell site analysis examinations, we’ve encountered a few using unusual structures. Which of the following pictures do you think are of cell sites?




If you haven’t already guessed, all of the above are examples of cell sites in the UK, some displaying slightly better disguise than others!

A. Opportunistic use of the heavens
B. Best effort we’ve seen
C. Good attempt at telegraph pole
D. Ridiculous bottle-brush tree

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