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Missing Malaysian plane: Passengers' cellphone activity probed using records

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The missing Malaysian Flight 370 passenger’s cell phones may offer some clues to this mystery of the missing plane. Going over the passenger’s cell phone records could help investigators determine the last time calls were made from this plane, or if any calls were made at all, according to “Fox and Friends” live on Wednesday morning March 19. The mystery of the lack of cell phone calls for 'help' from passengers is also probed.

One of the big questions being asked today is why weren’t the passengers flooding their loved ones with phone calls like seen with United Flight 93 before that plane went down on 9/11? CNN News reports that the plane could have been flying too high, out of cell phone tower reach to have a phone call go through.

Analysis of the passenger and flight crew’s cell phone calls should be a big piece to this investigation. The Malaysian Airlines CEO said at a news conference yesterday that “There are a million of records to process. It is all being done as part of the investigation.”

He said that: “So far, we have not had any evidence of any telephone company of any member trying to contact.” Just before the time the plane dropped off radar, it made that climb to 45,000 feet, which would render the plane out of cell phone tower range.

The plane came back down and reports have it flying too low for a good portion of its journey, but it could be that they were just out of cell phone tower range. Vincent Lau, a wireless communications specialist and professor at the Hong Kong University and Technology’s Department of Electronic and Computer Engineering, was asked to about the passenger’s cell phone connection ability.

Lau said:

"If you look at the data in this case, the altitude at which the planes were traveling is too high. Even on the ground it wouldn't be easy to pick up from that distance, and if you are flying it's even more difficult because at those angles you are only picking up what we call leakage from the side loops of the antennas, which are substantially weaker than the signals from the main loops of the base stations."

Business class seats on the plane are equipped with satellite connected phones, but Lau said they would be easy to disconnect that system from inside the plane. Bill Rojas director of telecom research at IDC Asia Pacific said that “technically it is possible” assuming that the passenger cell phones were on, that a cell phone that passed over a cell tower would register the cell phone signal.

It would be “relatively easy to retrieve” the information from a Smartphone left on and registering with a cell tower. If a passenger doesn’t have internationally roaming, then their cell phone would be rejected by the tower. For those cell phones that are equipped with roaming, the cell phone tower should pick up their ping.

Even the rejection of the cell phone is stored as data for some time by the network Rojas said:

"I would assume that the authorities are checking with the mobile operators by comparing known passenger cell numbers to see if there were any pings or attempted or successful network registrations in northern Malaysia or southern Thailand or possibly even Indonesia. Any passenger who had roaming capabilities or a local Malaysian number -- if the plane were over Malaysia -- could in theory have been registered on the network if their phone was on."

Another factor for cell phone reception is speed said Rojas. The aircraft would need to be flying below 250 kilometers per hour, which is 155 mph for the passengers to get their cell phone calls through.

If the cell phones records of all the passengers show that their last calls were all ended around the same time, then this adds another piece of mystery to the investigation. The cell phone records of the passengers are another piece of the puzzle today. Why isn't more being said about the passengers' cell phones? What cell phones may have registered with the cell phone towers and what they didn't register going by a tower are all important pieces of information. What did those cell phone records show?

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