The 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) is an umbrella for a number of standards organizations that develop protocols for mobile telecommunications. Its best-known work is the development and maintenance of:
3GPP is a consortium with seven national or regional telecommunication standards organizations as primary members ("organizational partners") and a variety of other organizations as associate members ("market representation partners"). The 3GPP organizes its work into three different streams: Radio Access Networks, Services and Systems Aspects, and Core Network and Terminals.
The project was established in December 1998 with the goal of developing a specification for a 3G mobile phone system based on the 2G GSM system, within the scope of the International Telecommunication Union's International Mobile Telecommunications-2000, hence the name 3GPP. It should not be confused with 3rd Generation Partnership Project 2 (3GPP2), which developed a competing 3G system, CDMA2000.
The 3GPP headquarters (known as the "Mobile Competence Centre") is located at the European Telecommunications Standards Institute headquarters in the Sophia Antipolis technology park in France.
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. Initially, principal participants included British Telecom, France Telecom, Telecom Italia, and Nortel Networks, but were eventually joined by NTT DoCoMo, BellSouth, Telenor, Lucent, Ericsson, Motorola, Nokia, and others. 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.