3GPP (3rd Generation Partnership Project)

Contributor(s): Corinne Bernstein

The 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) is a collaborative project between a group of telecommunications associations with the initial goal of developing globally applicable specifications for third generation (3G) mobile systems. Established in 1997, the project was based on the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) specifications and the International Telecommunication Union's Mobile Telecommunications-2000 effort. The partnership project has since expanded its focus to include the maintenance and development of GSM technical specifications and reports.

3GPP standards are geared towards mobile systems based on evolved GSM core networks as well as the radio access technologies they support, service capabilities and security. This includes the maintenance and development of the following:

  • 2G/2.5G standards, including General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) and Enhanced Data rates for GSM Evolution (EDGE)
  • 3G standards, including High Speed Packet Access (HSPA), Universal Terrestrial Radio Access (UTRA) and Japan's Freedom of Mobile Multimedia Access (FOMA)
  • LTE, LTE-Advanced and 4G standards
  • Next generation and 5G standards

The 3GPP unites telecommunications standards organizations around the world such as Japan's Association of Radio Industries and Businesses (ARIB), the Telecommunications Technology Committee (TTC), the China Communications Standards Association (CCSA), South Korea’s Telecommunications Technology Association (TTA), the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI), and the Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions (ATIS).

3GPP and 5G

The 3GPP has begun outlining the extensive specifications required to design and build out a 5G network. In December 2017, the organization released specifications for building non-standalone versions of 5G New Radio (NR), which is the backbone wireless standard for 5G. Following this, specifications for standalone 5G NR were produced. NR will initially expand and improve upon today’s LTE network coverage, later building technology that relies on standalone versions of 5G NR that are wholly separate from 4G LTE networks.


A sister program to the 3GPP, the Third Generation Partnership Project 2 (3GPP2) is also a collaborative telecommunications organization, but it was established for use on Code Division Multiple Access (CDMA) 2000. The 3GPP2 incorporates North American and Asian interests for developing global specs for ANSI/TIA/EIA-41 Cellular Radio telecommunication Intersystem Operations as well as the radio transmission technologies it supports.

This was last updated in October 2018

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