Femtocell activity is picking up of late. AT&T is actively rolling out its AT&T 3G microcell product. Not to be outdone, Wisconsin based Mosaic Telecom will soon join them. Mosaic is launching one of the few rural deployments of femtocells, using Nokia Siemens Networks (NSN) and Airvana gear. Mosaic, formerly Chibardun Telephone,  is a triple play and wireless provider in rural Wisconsin, covering 500K POPs with its wireless network.

The deployment, scheduled for 3Q10, will use an open 3GPP compliant femtocell solution for Mosaic’s AWS wireless network. Mosaic may be breaking some new ground here. “To our knowledge, this is the first [U.S.] operator deployment based on these standards,” Airvana spokesman Rob Morton tells me.

The femtocell acts as a mini cellular access point, providing better in-home (and in-business) wireless coverage for Mosaic’s customers, using their wireline broadband connection as backhaul. “We’ve been really interested in femtocells every since we launched our wireless service,” Rick Vergin, CEO of Mosaic tells me. “In-home wireless coverage in rural markets is something everyone struggles with. We think this will give us a competitive advantage.”

Mosaic is using Airvana’s HubBub UMTS Femtocell, which delivers up to 7.2 Mb/s downstream and 1.4 Mb/s upstream in addition to 4 voice calls, allowing both data and voice connectivity for wireless devices within the home. The Airvana femtocell interfaces with NSN’s femtocell gateway within Mosaic’s network.

Vergin thinks femtocells will play an ever increasing role in the future of rural broadband. “We view ourselves as a broadband and mobility provider and not a wireline telephone company. Femtocells fit with this strategy because it supports both wireline broadband and mobility.”

But Vergin is not exactly ready to give up on wireline voice altogether. Mosaic offers a quad play bundle and prices it in such a way that wireline voice is basically free, due to bundled discounts and the waived $9.95/month femtocell service fee.