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:
- the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) including GSM evolved radio access technologies (e.g. General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) and Enhanced Data Rates for GSM Evolution (EDGE))
- an evolved third Generation and beyond Mobile System based on the evolved 3GPP core networks, and the radio access technologies supported by the Partners (i.e., UTRA both FDD and TDD modes).
- an evolved IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) developed in an access independent manner
3GPP standardization encompasses Radio, Core Network and Service architecture. 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. 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).
Organizational Partners 
The six 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:
- The approval and maintenance of the 3GPP scope;
- The maintenance of the Partnership Project Description;
- Take the decision to create or cease a Technical Specification Groups, and approve their scope and terms of reference;
- The approval of Organizational Partner funding requirements;
- The allocation of human and financial resources provided by the Organizational Partners to the Project Co-ordination Group;
- Act as a body of appeal on procedural matters referred to them.
Together with the Market Representation Partners (MRPs) perform the following tasks:
- The maintenance of the Partnership Project Agreement;
- The approval of applications for 3GPP partnership;
- Take the decision against a possible dissolution of 3GPP.
|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|
Market Representation Partners 
The 3GPP Organizational Partners can invite a Market Representation Partner to take part in 3GPP, which:
- Has the ability to offer market advice to 3GPP and to bring into 3GPP a consensus view of market requirements (e.g., services, features and functionality) falling within the 3GPP scope;
- Does not have the capability and authority to define, publish and set standards within the 3GPP scope, nationally or regionally;
- Has committed itself to all or part of the 3GPP scope;
- Has signed the Partnership Project Agreement.
As of December 2011 the Market Representation Partners are:
|TD SCDMA Industry Alliance||www.tdscdma-alliance.org|
|Small Cell Forum (formerly Femto Forum)||www.smallcellforum.org|
|CDMA Development Group||www.cdg.org|
|Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI)||www.coai.com|
3GPP standards are structured as Releases. Discussion of 3GPP thus frequently refers to the functionality in one release or another.
|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|
|Release 4||2001 Q2||Originally called the Release 2000 - added features including an all-IP Core Network|
|Release 5||2002 Q1||Introduced IMS and HSDPA|
|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|
|Release 7||2007 Q4||Focuses on decreasing latency, improvements to QoS and real-time applications such as VoIP. 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.|
|Release 9||2009 Q4||SAES Enhancements, WiMAX and LTE/UMTS Interoperability. Dual-Cell HSDPA with MIMO, Dual-Cell HSUPA.|
|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.|
|Release 12||Planned to 2014 Q2||Content still open (as of October 2012).|
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).
There are four Technical Specifications Groups:
- GERAN (GSM/EDGE Radio Access Network): GERAN specifies the GSM radio technology, including GPRS and EDGE. It is composed of three working groups.
- RAN (Radio Access Network): RAN specifies the UTRAN and the E-UTRAN. It is composed of five working groups.
- SA (Service and System Aspects): SA specifies the service requirements and the overall architecture of the 3GPP system. It is also responsible for the coordination of the project. SA is composed of five working groups.
- CT (Core Network and Terminals): CT specifies the core network and terminal parts of 3GPP. It includes the core network - terminal layer 3 protocols. It is composed of four working groups.
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.
Specification work is done at WG and at TSG level:
- the 3GPP WGs hold several meetings a year. They prepare and discuss change requests against 3GPP specifications. A change request accepted at WG level is called "agreed".
- the 3GPP TSGs hold plenary meetings quarterly. The TSGs can "approve" the change requests that were agreed at WG level. Some specifications are under the direct responsibility of TSGs and therefore, change requests can also be handled at TSG level. The approved change requests are subsequently incorporated in 3GPP specifications.
- stage 1 specifications define the service requirements from the user point of view.
- stage 2 specifications define an architecture to support the service requirements.
- stage 3 specifications define an implementation of the architecture by specifying protocols in details.
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. 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). With LTE the official successor to 3GPP2's CDMA systems, 3GPP-based systems will eventually become the single global mobile standard.
See also 
- Universal Mobile Telecommunications System (UMTS)
- 3GPP Long Term Evolution
- Evolution to 3G
- IP Multimedia Subsystem
- 3GPP2 - The 3GPP's counterpart in the CDMA2000 sphere.
- GSM services
- Telecoms & Internet converged Services & Protocols for Advanced Networks (TISPAN)
- Open Mobile Alliance
- Service layer
- European Telecommunications Standards Institute
- 3GPP Scope and Objectives, 31 August 2007
- About The Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP)
- 3rd Generation Partnership Project 2
- Mobile Competence Centre
- 3GPP Specifications - Releases (and phases and stages)
- Overview of 3GPP Release 99, Summary of all Release 99 Features. ETSI Mobile Competence Centre, Version xx/07/04
- Overview of 3GPP Release 4, Summary of all Release 4 Features, v.1.1.0 (draft) ETSI Mobile Competence Centre 2004
- Summary of all Release 5 Features, ETSI Mobile Competence Centre, Version 9 September 2003
- Overview of 3GPP Release 6, Summary of all Release 6 Features, Version TSG #33, ETSI Mobile Competence Centre 2006
- Review of the Work Plan at Plenaries #31, 3GPP, SP-060232 3GPP TSG SA#31 Sanya, March 13–16, 2006
- Specification Groups
- 3GPP membership
- 3GPP TR 21.900 Technical Specification Group working methods
- ITU-T Recommendation I.130
- GSM/3G Fast Facts. GSM Suppliers' Association, 10 December 2006
- Resources: 3G/UMTS Commercial Deployments, Table listing commercially launched 3G/UMTS networks based on WCDMA technology, UMTS Forum
- Cingular to Deliver 3G Wireless Broadband Services, Press Release, Cingular Wireless, MediaRoom 30 November 2004
- 3GPP website
- 3GPP Standards List of Acronyms & Terminology
- 3GPP specifications
- 3GPP releases descriptions
- ETSI GSM UMTS 3GPP Numbering Cross Reference
- specification numbering
- Tool for visualizing multiple inter-related 3gpp standards