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'Phantom call' theory dismissed by experts

By Euan McKirdy, CNN
updated 8:19 AM EDT, Wed March 12, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Passengers' ringing cell phones led to speculation that flight MH370 hadn't crashed
  • Aircraft's disappearance remains shrouded in mystery
  • "Phantom call" theory inconclusive, CNN hears

(CNN) -- The mystery of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 appeared to deepen as reports emerged that passengers' cell phones continued to ring long after the flight went missing Saturday.

After the torment of not knowing what has happened to their loved ones, relatives of MH370 passengers had resorted to calling their phones, and were greeted with ringtones.

The aircraft disappeared unexpectedly from tracking early Saturday. No distress call from the pilots was received, and search efforts to date have not yielded any conclusive results, only adding to the uncertainty surrounding the fate of the Beijing-bound flight.

Speculation quickly mounted on social media that these "phantom calls" amounted to evidence that the flight had not crashed, as has been widely assumed.

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"Frustrated! ... There are reports from family members that phone calls to their missing loved ones have 'rung through,' indicating the phones aren't on the bottom of the ocean," one Facebook user surmised.

However, technology industry analyst and "E-Commerce Times" columnist, Jeff Kagan told CNN that no conclusions can be reached concerning the ringing phones.

When a cell phone rings, he told "The Situation Room," it first connects with the network and attempts to locate the end-user's phone.

"If it doesn't find the phone after a few minutes, after a few rings, then typically, it disconnects and that's what's happening," he said.

"So, they're hearing ringing and they're assuming it's connecting to their loved ones, but it's not. It's the network sending a signal to the phone letting them know it's looking for them."

Kagan told Wolf Blitzer that the technology meant he couldn't speculate on what ringing phones in this situation could mean.

"Just because you're getting ringing, just because the signs that we see on these cell phones, that's no proof that there's any -- that's just the way the networks work."

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CNN's Wilfred Chan contributed to this report

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