3GPP

A typical 3GPP meeting. Source: Sangam 2019.
A typical 3GPP meeting. Source: Sangam 2019.

The Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) was founded in 1998 to develop and maintain the 3G Mobile System, which is an evolution of GSM. Since then, its scope of work has expanded to technologies that came after 3G, that is, 4G/LTE and 5G. 3GPP also maintains the older GSM specifications. 3GPP aims to address new use cases as they emerge while ensuring compatibility and interoperability.

Partners or members of 3GPP can participate in the specification process. 3GPP is funded by Organizational Partners, which are national or regional Standards Development Organizations (SDOs). Other associated groups also provide funding.

3GPP publishes technical reports and specifications, which are published as standards by SDOs. The documents they publish are freely available to the public.

Discussion

  • What are the types of memberships at 3GPP?
    Interworking of 3GPP, partners and members. Source: 3GPP 1998, slide 29.
    Interworking of 3GPP, partners and members. Source: 3GPP 1998, slide 29.

    3GPP has the following types of partnerships or memberships:

    • Organizational Partners: These have the authority to define and publish standards regionally or nationally. They bring to 3GPP regional or national requirements, IPR policies and resources to help run 3GPP. Documents produced by 3GPP have no legal standing until they're published by Organizational Partners into corresponding regional or national standards. However, Organizational Partners jointly own the copyright to the technical specifications and reports.
    • Market Representation Partners: These promote 3GPP in their markets. They bring in market requirements. They encourage their members to coordinate activities and contribute towards 3GPP.
    • Individual Members: These can participate at meetings and contribute actively. To become an individual member, they must first be a member of an Organizational Partner. Members are typically government bodies, regulators, educational/research institutes, network operators, and software/hardware vendors.
    • Observers: These can become Organizational Partners in future. They can attend meetings but can't discuss, decide or lead.
    • Guests: These can become Individual Members in future. Like observers, they've limited privileges.
  • Who are the partners and members of 3GPP?
    Organizational Partners at 3GPP. Source: Adapted from 3GPP 2022d.
    Organizational Partners at 3GPP. Source: Adapted from 3GPP 2022d.

    As on October 2022, 3GPP has 7 Organizational Partners: ARIB, ATIS, CCSA, ETSI, TSDSI, TTA, TTC. In addition, there are 26 Market Representation Partners. Some of these are 5G Americas, GCF, GSA, GSMA, Small Cell Forum, Wireless Broadband Alliance, etc. There are two Observers: Communications Alliance (Australia) and TIA (USA).

    3GPP has 800+ Individual Members. Some of these are Airbus, AT&T, Ericsson, Huawei, IIT Bombay, Intel, KDDI, MediaTek, NEC, Ofcom UK, Qualcomm, Rakuten, etc.

  • How is 3GPP organized?
    3GPP organization structure. Source: 3GPP 2022i.
    3GPP organization structure. Source: 3GPP 2022i.

    3GPP consists of one Project Coordination Group (PCG) and a few Technical Specifications Groups (TSGs). Each TSG can establish one or more Working Groups (WGs) under it.

    PCG is composed of Organizational Partners and Market Representative Partners. ITU representatives and Observers may also attend their meetings. PCG meets at least twice a year. PCG manages the overall work of 3GPP. It allocates funds and resources. It maintains the registry of Individual Members and relevant IPR declarations. It authorizes requests from TSGs for external liaisons.

    TSGs are composed of Individual Members (who are really representatives of Organizational Partners), Market Representation Partners, Observers and Guests. TSGs perform technical coordination including allocating resources, managing work items and tracking progress.

  • How does 3GPP work?
    3GPP meetings follow a quarterly cycle. Source: 3GPP 2022c.
    3GPP meetings follow a quarterly cycle. Source: 3GPP 2022c.

    3GPP meetings happen quarterly. Each TSG has a plenary meeting in which all of its WGs get together. Plenary formally approves all changes proposed at the WGs. Plenary also coordinates activities across WGs. CT, RAN and SA plenary meetings are co-located at the same venue. They happen in March, June, September and December. WG meetings and related ad hoc discussions happen between two plenary meetings.

    During COVID-19, in-person meetings were replaced with virtual meetings. For example, RAN5#92-e (August 2021) was a virtual meeting whereas RAN5#93 (November 2021) was an in-person meeting.

    Following the TSG plenary, the 3GPP Mobile Competence Centre (MCC) makes public the updated specifications. Specifications are available per TSG meeting and by series.

    Two documents to understand 3GPP better are 3GPP Working Procedures and TR 21.900: TSG Working Methods.

  • What types of documents are produced by 3GPP?
    Annotated cover page of a 3GPP TS. Source: Penttinen 2013, fig. 2.3.
    Annotated cover page of a 3GPP TS. Source: Penttinen 2013, fig. 2.3.

    3GPP produces Technical Reports (TRs) and Technical Specifications (TSs). Reports contains the findings of feasibility studies. When any new feature is to be introduced, 3GPP commissions a study involving perhaps many WGs across TSGs. Work items are scoped and scheduled in Work Item Description (WID) documents. The study eventually results in new TR/TS or changes existing TR/TS via Change Requests (CRs). WIDs and CRs are just two types of Temporary Documents (TDocs).

    Depending on the purpose, CRs fall into categories A-F. CRs introduce a new feature, clarify or enhance an existing feature, or correct an error in frozen specifications. CRs can be withdrawn, rejected, revised or postponed. Multiples CRs can be merged. Each CR is given a identity. For example, CR 31.102-0095 implies a CR on 31.102 and assigned the number 0095.

    Each TR or TS belongs to a specific series and has a version number. For example, TS 38.101-4 V17.6.0 is a TS belonging to 38-series. The suffix "-4" indicates part 4 (parts and subparts are used only for long documents). Version "17.x.x" indicates Release 17.

Milestones

Dec
1998
3GPP logo. Source: 3GPP 2022h.
3GPP logo. Source: 3GPP 2022h.

The 3GPP Partnership Project Agreement is signed by five Organizational Partners: ARIB (Japan), ETSI (Europe), ATIS Committee T1 (USA), TTA (South Korea) and TTC (Japan). At this time, four TSGs are proposed: Radio Access Network, Core Network, Terminals, Service and System Aspects. UMTS Forum in inducted into 3GPP as the first Market Representation Partner.

Jan
1999

3GPP2 is launched with four Organizational Partners: ARIB (Japan), TIA (USA), TTA (Korea), and TTC (Japan). This is not to be confused with 3GPP. 3GPP standardizes 3G/UMTS as an evolution of GSM. 3GPP2 standardizes IS-2000 (aka CDMA2000) as an evolution of IS-95 (aka cdmaOne). 3GPP2 will specify an evolved core network from ANSI-41.

May
1999

China Wireless Telecommunication Standard (CWTS) group is inducted into 3GPP as an Organizational Partner. In May 2003 (and formally signed in April 2004), China Communications Standards Association (CCSA) becomes as an Organizational Partner instead, since CWTS is merged into CCSA.

Jul
2000

The scope of 3GPP is modified to include development and maintenance of legacy technologies GSM, GPRS and EDGE.

Oct
2004

PCG approves the creation of TSG CT by merging TSG CN and TSG T. To aid this decision, it observes that the terminal and the network deal with two ends of the same protocols. The merger is also expected to bring economies of scale.

Dec
2007

3GPP Organizational Partners agree to extend the scope of the organization from just 3G to "evolved Third Generation and beyond". The agreement notes that they will continue to develop and maintain GSM, GPRS and EDGE.

Jan
2015

From 1st January, the Telecommunications Standards Development Society of India (TSDSI) becomes a full Organizational Partner in 3GPP. The agreement is formally signed in April.

Jun
2016
TSN GERAN is closed. Source: 3GPP 2016.
TSN GERAN is closed. Source: 3GPP 2016.

TSG GERAN (GSM/EDGE Radio Access Network) is finally closed, its work being transferred to TSG RAN WG5 and WG6. TSG RAN WG6 oversees GERAN and UTRAN radio and protocol work but is subsequently closed in July 2020.

References

  1. 3GPP. 1998. "Partnership Project Description." Presentation, 3GPP, 2-4 December. Accessed 2022-10-19.
  2. 3GPP. 2004. "Draft Summary minutes, decisions and actions from 3GPP PCG Meeting#13, Seoul, 6 October 2004." TP-040215, 3GPP TSG-T (Terminals) Meeting #26, October 6. Accessed 2022-10-18.
  3. 3GPP. 2015. "TSDSI - The new 3GPP OP." News, 3GPP, January 6. Accessed 2022-10-19.
  4. 3GPP. 2016. "All roads lead to IoT, from GERAN to RAN." News, 3GPP, January25. Accessed 2022-10-18.
  5. 3GPP. 2022a. "About 3GPP." 3GPP. Accessed 2022-10-18.
  6. 3GPP. 2022b. "Introducing 3GPP." 3GPP. Accessed 2022-10-18.
  7. 3GPP. 2022c. "How We Work." 3GPP. Accessed 2022-10-18.
  8. 3GPP. 2022d. "Partners." 3GPP. Accessed 2022-10-18.
  9. 3GPP. 2022e. "3GPP FAQ's." 3GPP. Accessed 2022-10-18.
  10. 3GPP. 2022f. "File Name Conventions." 3GPP. Accessed 2022-10-19.
  11. 3GPP. 2022g. "Change Requests." 3GPP. Accessed 2022-10-18.
  12. 3GPP. 2022h. "Logo Usage." 3GPP. Accessed 2022-10-18.
  13. 3GPP. 2022i. "3GPP Groups." 3GPP. Accessed 2022-10-19.
  14. 3GPP. 2022j. "Specifications & Technologies." 3GPP. Accessed 2022-10-19.
  15. 3GPP. 2022k. "Third Generation Partnership Project Agreement." Until Annex 44. Updated 2022-04-27. Accessed 2022-10-19.
  16. 3GPP. 2022l. "3rd Generation Partnership Project; Technical Specification Group Services and System Aspects; Technical Specification Group working methods (Release 18)." V18.0.1, September. Accessed 2022-10-19.
  17. 3GPP. 2022m. "Membership." 3GPP. Accessed 2022-10-19.
  18. 3GPP. 2022n. "TDoc List." Portal, 3GPP. Accessed 2022-10-19.
  19. 3GPP. 2022o. "Third Generation Partnership Project Working Procedures." 3GPP, September 1. Accessed 2022-10-19.
  20. 3GPP2. 1999. "World Standards Organizations Launch Partnership Project For Third-Generation Wireless." Press release, 3GPP2, January 27. Accessed 2022-10-19.
  21. Casaccia, Lorenzo. 2017. "Understanding 3GPP – starting with the basics." OnQ Blog, Qualcomm, August 2. Accessed 2022-10-18.
  22. ETSI. 2022a. "3GPP." ETSI. Accessed 2022-10-18.
  23. ETSI. 2022b. "3GPP Membership." ETSI. Accessed 2022-10-18.
  24. ETSI. 2022c. "2nd Generation (GERAN)." ETSI. Accessed 2022-10-18.
  25. Penttinen, Jyrki T. J. 2013. "Standardization and Regulation." In: The Telecommunications Handbook: Engineering Guidelines for Fixed, Mobile and Satellite Systems, Wiley, pp.23-48. doi: 10.1002/9781118678916.ch2. Accessed 2022-10-18.
  26. Sangam, P. 2019. "Chronicles of 3GPP Rel. 17 Part 2: Defining the future of 5G." Medium, December 16. Accessed 2022-10-18.
  27. TelecomTV. 2020. "RAN6 closure, GERAN no more." TelecomTV, July 9. Accessed 2022-10-18.
  28. Wikipedia. 2021. "3GPP2." Wikipedia, December 10. Accessed 2022-10-19.

Further Reading

  1. 3GPP. 2022b. "Introducing 3GPP." 3GPP. Accessed 2022-10-18.
  2. Chen, Angela. 2019. "Standardization Process of Cellular Technologies within 3GPP." Medium, August 16. Accessed 2022-10-18.
  3. Casaccia, Lorenzo. 2017. "Understanding 3GPP – starting with the basics." OnQ Blog, Qualcomm, August 2. Accessed 2022-10-18.
  4. Baron, J. and K. Gupta. 2018. "Unpacking 3GPP standards." J Econ Manage Strat, vol. 27, no. 3, pp. 433-461. doi: 10.1111/jems.12258. Accessed 2022-10-18.
  5. 3GPP. 2022o. "Third Generation Partnership Project Working Procedures." 3GPP, September 1. Accessed 2022-10-19.
  6. Wikipedia. 2022. "3GPP." Wikipedia, September 24. Accessed 2022-10-18.

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