Forensic Cell Site Analysis

Associated Standards

  • ISO/IEC 17025 General requirements for the competence of testing and calibration laboratories
  • ILAC G19 Modules in a Forensic Science Process
  • UKAS Publication Lab 13 – UKAS Guidance on the Application of ISO/IEC 17025:2017 Dealing with Expressions of Opinions and Interpretations

Current FSR Standards

  • FSR Code of Conduct and Practice
  • FSR-C-135 Cell Site Analysis Issue 1 

Plan FSR Standards

  • FSR Statutory Code of Practice (to be issued)

N.B – Content of FSR-C-135 will be included in Codes under Geolocation – Cell Site Analysis requirements including update on expectation relating to Critical Findings Review.

About the programme

The objective of the Forensic Cell Site Analysis pilot programme is to confirm the applicability of the relevant standards, to identify any areas which need further guidance and to establish a proportionate and robust assessment approach.

Current status

Cell Site Analysis is the process of inferring where a device (e.g. a mobile phone) may, or may not, have been at the time of telecommunication activity (e.g. call, text, data transaction). It may be used in criminal cases for investigative or evidential purposes and for either prosecution or defence.  Cell Site Analysis relies upon the acquisition of communications data from network providers (e.g. Vodafone, EE, ‘3’), processing of that data, and the presentation of it, usually in the form of maps and tables possibly with a report containing commentary and opinion.  Additional activity such as radio frequency surveys or terrain profiling may also take place to provide greater precision of the location of the device when the telecommunication activity occurred.

Within the Forensic environment the Forensic Science Regulator (FSR) has a remit to ensure that the provision of forensic science services across the criminal justice system is subject to an appropriate regime of scientific quality standards.  As part of this remit, the FSR has published a Code of Conduct and Practice which all organisations should adhere to, and, where relevant, include compliance on their schedule of accreditation. In the recent draft Statutory Code of Practice the FSR has identified Cell Site Analysis as a Forensic Science Activity under the FSA Geolocation Analysis with a deadline for any Forensic Unit undertaking this activity to gain accreditation to ISO/IEC 17025 within 24 months after from the Code of Practice coming into force.

UKAS implemented a development project in 2016 to confirm the applicability of ISO/IEC 17025 along with other relevant publications used within the forensic sector for the accreditation of Forensic Units undertaking the following Cell Site Analysis activities:

  • Radio Frequency Propagation Survey (Sampling)
  • Determination of likely Cell Site serving coverage for specific locations/areas, for subsequent opinion on the location a mobile device
  • Technical Interpretation of the Cell Site Analysis data to provide opinion on whether a mobile device could or could not make a call or pattern of calls from a specific location(s)

This project has now been completed with the first Forensic Unit being accredited on the 3rd February 2023, this being

  • IntaForensics Ltd

Please find a link below to the schedules for these Forensic Units who have meet the accreditation requirement.  Future applicant Forensic Units achieving accreditation will be published on this website when granted.

Search Accredited Organisations By Category – UKAS

As a result of the successful pilot UKAS will be in a position to accept applications for Forensic Cell Site Analysis from the date the FSR Statutory Code of Practice are published (expected April 2023).

Organisations that are new to accreditation should consult the UKAS web pages to gain information on UKAS, the accreditation process and how to apply for accreditation.

How to apply for accreditation | UKAS

Existing accredited bodies should consult their UKAS Assessment Manager in the first instance to discuss any plans for extending their scope of accreditation including potential timescales.

For new and existing applicants for Forensic Cell Site Analysis activities please refer to all the publications and documents detailed above including, when published, the Statutory Forensic Code of Practice which will detail the technical requirements for Cell Site Analysis.

In order to proceed toward accreditation Forensic Units will need to have included Groundtruth data (i.e. known generated Call Data Records and involvement in PT/ILC/Blind trial Exercises) in their validation to demonstrate the reliability of their Cell Site Analysis methods.  The Forensic Units will also need to review the Statutory Forensic Code of Practice including ILAC G19 and UKAS publication  Lab 13 to ensure that their reporting of opinions involves the required level of independent critical finding review.

N.B – Please refer to technical bulletin in relation to agreed assessment priorities after the publication of the FSR Statutory Code of Practice – Latest Technical Bulletins – UKAS