The 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) is a collaboration between groups of telecommunications associations, known as the Organizational Partners. The initial scope of 3GPP was to make a globally applicable third-generation (3G) mobile phone system specification based on evolved Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) specifications within the scope of the International Mobile Telecommunications-2000 project of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). The scope was later enlarged to include the development and maintenance of:[1]

3GPP standardization encompasses Radio, Core Network and Service architecture.[2] The project was established in December 1998 and should not be confused with 3rd Generation Partnership Project 2 (3GPP2), which specifies standards for another 3G technology based on IS-95 (CDMA), commonly known as CDMA2000.[3] The 3GPP support team (also known as the "Mobile Competence Centre") is located at the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) headquarters in Sophia-Antipolis (France).[4]


The 3rd Generation Partnership Project initiative eventually arose from a strategic initiative between Nortel Networks and AT&T Wireless. In 1998 AT&T Wireless was operating an IS-136 (TDMA) wireless network in the United States. In 1997 Nortel Networks' Wireless R&D center in Richardson, Texas, the wireless division of Bell Northern Research had developed a vision for "an all Internet Protocol (IP)" wireless network that went under the internal name "Cell Web". As the concept progressed, Nortel launched the industry vision as "Wireless Internet". AT&T Wireless, poised to evolve its network in the United States, took a strong interest in Wireless Internet and its promise of Internet Protocol (with Nortel Networks as the potential supplier). Within 12 months or so, AT&T launched a global initiative that they named "3GIP", a third generation wireless standard that was "natively" Internet Protocol based.[5] Initially, principal participants included British Telecom, France Telecom, Telecom Italia, and Nortel Networks, but were eventually joined by NTT DoCoMo, BellSouth, Telenor, and Lucent, Ericsson, Motorola, Nokia, and others.[6] A 3GIP standards forum was instituted and standards began to be developed. The forum progressed into the 2000 time frame, up until AT&T Wireless and British Telecom formed a strategic "partnership project" to facilitate "global roaming" between U.S. and European markets. With this business arrangement, GSM, the prevailing European standard was adopted as the basis of AT&T Wireless' network evolution for North America. Very specifically, this included the deployment of GSM data capabilities, i.e. GPRS, EDGE, and its evolution to UMTS. With this, the original acronym "3GIP" morphed into "3GPP", a "3rd Generation Partnership Project" for defining the next generation wireless network that was fundamentally capable of supporting Internet Protocol based wireless communications. 3GPP became the industry standards forum that defined UMTS and more recently LTE.

Organizational Partners

The seven 3GPP Organizational Partners are from Asia, Europe and North America. Their aim is to determine the general policy and strategy of 3GPP and perform the following tasks:

Together with the Market Representation Partners (MRPs) perform the following tasks:

3GPP Organizational Partners
Organization Base region
Association of Radio Industries and Businesses (ARIB)Japan
Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions (ATIS)USA
China Communications Standards Association (CCSA)China
European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI)Europe
Telecommunications Technology Association (TTA)Korea
Telecommunication Technology Committee (TTC)Japan
Telecommunications Standards Development Society India (TSDSI)India

Market Representation Partners

The 3GPP Organizational Partners can invite a Market Representation Partner to take part in 3GPP, which:

As of November 2013 the Market Representation Partners are:

Market Representation Partners
Organization Website
IMS Forumimsforum
GSM Associationgsmworld
IPV6 Forumipv6forum
UMTS Forumumts
4G Americas4gamericas
TD SCDMA Industry Alliancetdscdma
InfoCommunication Unionicu
Small Cell Forum (formerly Femto Forum)smallcellforum
CDMA Development Groupcdg
Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI)coai
Next Generation Mobile Networks (NGMN)ngmn
TETRA and Critical Communications Association (TCCA)tcca


3GPP standards are structured as Releases. Discussion of 3GPP thus frequently refers to the functionality in one release or another.

Version[7] Released[8] Info
Phase 1 1992 GSM Features
Phase 2 1995 GSM Features, EFR Codec,
Release 96 1997 Q1 GSM Features, 14.4 kbit/s User Data Rate,
Release 97 1998 Q1 GSM Features, GPRS
Release 98 1999 Q1 GSM Features, AMR, EDGE, GPRS for PCS1900
Release 99 2000 Q1 Specified the first UMTS 3G networks, incorporating a CDMA air interface[9]
Release 4 2001 Q2 Originally called the Release 2000 - added features including an all-IP Core Network[10]
Release 5 2002 Q1 Introduced IMS and HSDPA[11]
Release 6 2004 Q4 Integrated operation with Wireless LAN networks and adds HSUPA, MBMS, enhancements to IMS such as Push to Talk over Cellular (PoC), GAN[12]
Release 7 2007 Q4 Focuses on decreasing latency, improvements to QoS and real-time applications such as VoIP.[13] This specification also focus on HSPA+ (High Speed Packet Access Evolution), SIM high-speed protocol and contactless front-end interface (Near Field Communication enabling operators to deliver contactless services like Mobile Payments), EDGE Evolution.
Release 8 2008 Q4 First LTE release. All-IP Network (SAE). New OFDMA, FDE and MIMO based radio interface, not backwards compatible with previous CDMA interfaces. Dual-Cell HSDPA. UMTS HNB.
Release 9 2009 Q4 SAES Enhancements, WiMAX and LTE/UMTS Interoperability. Dual-Cell HSDPA with MIMO, Dual-Cell HSUPA. LTE HeNB.
Release 10 2011 Q1 LTE Advanced fulfilling IMT Advanced 4G requirements. Backwards compatible with release 8 (LTE). Multi-Cell HSDPA (4 carriers).
Release 11 2012 Q3 Advanced IP Interconnection of Services. Service layer interconnection between national operators/carriers as well as third party application providers. Heterogeneous networks (HetNet) improvements, Coordinated Multi-Point operation (CoMP). In-device Co-existence (IDC).
Release 12 2015 Q1 Enhanced Small Cells (higher order modulation, dual connectivity, cell discovery, self configuration), Carrier Aggregation (2 uplink carriers, 3 downlink carriers, FDD/TDD carrier aggregation), MIMO (3D channel modeling, elevation beamforming, massive MIMO), New and Enhanced Services (cost and range of MTC, D2D communication, eMBMS enhancements)[14]
Release 13 Planned to March 2016 LTE in unlicensed, LTE enhancements for Machine-Type Communication. Elevation Beamforming / Full-Dimension MIMO, Indoor positioning[15]
Release 14 Planned for June 2017 Energy Efficiency, Location Services (LCS), Mission Critical Data over LTE, Mission Critical Video over LTE, Flexible Mobile Service Steering (FMSS), Multimedia Broadcast Supplement for Public Warning System (MBSP), enhancement for TV service, massive Internet of Things, Cell Broadcast Service (CBS), Cell Broadcast Service (CBS)[16]
Release 15 Planned for Sept 2018 Support for 5G Vehicle-to-x service,IP Multimedia Core Network Subsystem (IMS), Future Railway Mobile Communication System[17]

Each release incorporates hundreds of individual standards documents, each of which may have been through many revisions. Current 3GPP standards incorporate the latest revision of the GSM standards.

The documents are available freely on 3GPP's Web site. While 3GPP standards can be bewildering to the newcomer, they are remarkably complete and detailed, and provide insight into how the cellular industry works. They cover not only the radio part ("Air Interface") and Core Network, but also billing information and speech coding down to source code level. Cryptographic aspects (authentication, confidentiality) are also specified in detail. 3GPP2 offers similar information about its system.

Specification groups

The 3GPP specification work is done in Technical Specification Groups (TSGs) and Working Groups (WGs).[18]

There are four Technical Specifications Groups, each of which consists of multiple WGs:

WG Shorthand Scope Specifications
GERAN WG1 GERAN1 Radio Aspects List of specs
GERAN WG2 GERAN2 Protocol Aspects List of specs
GERAN WG3 GERAN3 Terminal Testing List of specs
WG Shorthand Scope Specifications
RAN WG1 RAN1 Radio Layer 1 specification List of specs
RAN WG2 RAN2 Radio Layer 2 and Radio Layer 3 RR specification List of specs
RAN WG3 RAN3 Iub Iur and Iu specification - UTRAN O&M requirements List of specs
RAN WG4 RAN4 Radio performance and protocol aspects (system) - RF parameters and BS conformance List of specs
RAN WG5 RAN5 Mobile terminal conformance testing List of specs
WG Shorthand Scope Specifications
SA WG1 SA1 Services List of specs
SA WG2 SA2 Architecture List of specs
SA WG3 SA3 Security List of specs
SA WG4 SA4 Codec List of specs
SA WG5 SA5 Telecom Management List of specs
SA WG6 SA6 Mission-critical applications List of specs
WG Shorthand Scope Specifications
CT WG1 CT1 MM/CC/SM (lu) List of specs
CT WG2 CT2 closed
CT WG3 CT3 Interworking with external networks List of specs
CT WG4 CT4 MAP/GTP / BCH/SS List of specs
CT WG5 CT5 OSA (Now transferred to OMA)
CT WG6 CT6 Smart Card Application Aspects List of specs

The 3GPP structure also includes a Project Coordination Group, which is the highest decision-making body. Its missions include the management of overall timeframe and work progress.

Standardization process

3GPP standardization work is contribution-driven. Companies ("individual members") participate through their membership to a 3GPP Organizational Partner. As of April 2011, 3GPP is composed of more than 370 individual members.[19]

Specification work is done at WG and at TSG level:[20]

3GPP follows a three-stage methodology as defined in ITU-T Recommendation I.130:[21]

Test specifications are sometimes defined as stage 4, as they follow stage 3.

Specifications are grouped into releases. A release consists of a set of internally consistent set of features and specifications.

Timeframes are defined for each release by specifying freezing dates. Once a release is frozen, only essential corrections are allowed (i.e. addition and modifications of functions are forbidden). Freezing dates are defined for each stage.

The 3GPP specifications are transposed into deliverables by the Organizational Partners.


3GPP systems are deployed across much of the established GSM market.[22][23] They are primarily Release 6 systems, but as of 2010, growing interest in HSPA+ and LTE is driving adoption of Release 7 and its successors. Since 2005, 3GPP systems were seeing deployment in the same markets as 3GPP2 systems (for example, North America[24]). With LTE the official successor to 3GPP2's CDMA systems, 3GPP-based systems will eventually become the single global mobile standard.

See also


  1. 3GPP Scope and Objectives, 31 August 2007
  2. About The Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP)
  3. 3rd Generation Partnership Project 2
  4. Mobile Competence Centre
  5. "3G.IP Mission Statement". 3G.IP. 2000. Archived from the original on 2000-08-31. Retrieved 2014-01-17.
  6. "3G.IP Membership List". 3G.IP. 2000. Archived from the original on 2000-08-31. Retrieved 2014-01-17.
  7. Releases
  8. 3GPP Specifications - Releases (and phases and stages)
  9. Overview of 3GPP Release 99, Summary of all Release 99 Features. ETSI Mobile Competence Centre, Version xx/07/04
  10. Overview of 3GPP Release 4, Summary of all Release 4 Features, v.1.1.0 (draft) ETSI Mobile Competence Centre 2004
  11. Summary of all Release 5 Features, ETSI Mobile Competence Centre, Version 9 September 2003
  12. Overview of 3GPP Release 6, Summary of all Release 6 Features, Version TSG #33, ETSI Mobile Competence Centre 2006
  13. Review of the Work Plan at Plenaries #31, 3GPP, SP-060232 3GPP TSG SA#31 Sanya, 13–16 March 2006
  14. "Highlights of 3GPP Release 12". Retrieved 20 November 2014.
  15. "Release 13 priorities". Retrieved 20 November 2014.
  16. Portal, 3GPP. "3GPP Portal > Specifications". portal.3gpp.org. Retrieved 2016-10-27.
  17. Portal, 3GPP. "3GPP Portal > Specifications". portal.3gpp.org. Retrieved 2016-10-27.
  18. Specification Groups
  19. 3GPP membership
  20. 3GPP TR 21.900 Technical Specification Group working methods
  21. ITU-T Recommendation I.130
  22. GSM/3G Fast Facts. GSM Suppliers' Association, 10 December 2006
  23. Resources: 3G/UMTS Commercial Deployments, Table listing commercially launched 3G/UMTS networks based on WCDMA technology, UMTS Forum
  24. Cingular to Deliver 3G Wireless Broadband Services, Press Release, Cingular Wireless, MediaRoom 30 November 2004

External links

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