Oct 23 AT 6:30 PM Taylor Wimberly 98 Comments

A closer look at Solavei, aka the pre-paid wireless service that pays you to refer your friends


If you are reading this blog, then you are probably a nerd. Smartphones are now mainstream, but only a small percentage of those people who own them actually visit the tech blogs on a daily basis. And if you are a nerd, then I’m guessing that your family and friends come to you when they have a technical question, or they want your free advice about their next tech purchase.

Being a nerd is a fun hobby, but it normally doesn’t earn you money on a regular basis. In fact, your tech obsession might actually put a strain on your monthly budget if you are an early adopter and you buy new gadgets several times a year. Wouldn’t it be cool then if your passion for smartphones could actually put cash back in your wallet?

Enter Solavei, the new mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) that runs on T-Mobile’s network. They offer pre-paid wireless service for $49 per month, which includes unlimited talk, text, and 4G HSPA+ data. What makes them really unique is that they follow a social commerce strategy that pays their members to refer other users.

Even if you don’t refer a single user, the $49 unlimited plan is better than most pre-paid options. Straight Talk and Simple Mobile both have “unlimited” plans for $45-50, but they don’t have a defined data policy and they could throttle you at any time if they think you abuse their service. Solavei gives you 4 GB of data per month, and then you are throttled if you exceed that.

Solavei becomes really attractive if you can get three people to sign up (they call this a Trio). A single Trio pays you $20 per month, which brings your wireless cost down to $29 per month. Earn two Trios (refer 6 people), and your monthly wireless service would only cost $9 per month. And so forth.

I’ve been a Solavei member since before they launched last month, so I’ve got to experience a full billing cycle now. No one else in the tech blogosphere is really reporting on Solavei, and I’m getting a lot of questions on it, so I figured I would detail my experience from the last couple months. Read on for the full details.

Who Should Join Solavei?

Anyone can join Solavei and try it without any long term commitments or contracts, but there are certain groups of people that I think the service appeals to. This includes people who already own compatible phones, and those that are out of contract and looking for a new wireless carrier.

  • T-Mobile customers: Solavei runs on T-Mobile’s network, so these customers already own phones that are compatible. They can order a Solavei SIM card and place it in their device to try the service.
  • AT&T customers (coming soon): T-Mobile is currently upgrading their network to support 4G HSPA+ on the 1900 MHz band, which means their network will support AT&T and global devices at full 4G HSPA+ speeds. T-Mobile plans to upgrade their Top 50 markets by the end of the year. When these go live, AT&T customers can unlock their devices and bring them over to Solavei.
  • Nexus owners: Nexus phones that are sold through the Google Play store are unlocked and work on AT&T or T-Mobile’s network. These are great devices for pre-paid wireless.
  • Customers currently off-contract: Anyone off-contract and purchase an unlocked phone and order a Solavei SIM card. Solavei also sells several phones like the HTC One S, so you can purchase your device from them if you choose.

Solavei sells phones from HTC and other manufacturers.

The Enrollment Process

Solavei requires that new members have a sponsor to sign up for service. If you don’t have a sponsor, then Solavei will automatically assign one to you. When you enroll you can either port your current number over or get a new number from Solavei. I use Google Voice to route all my calls, so I got a new Solavei number and forwarded it to my Google number.

New member charges include:

  • $49 activation fee
  • $49 first month fee
  • $29 SIM card fee (fee is waived if you purchase a phone from Solavei)

After you sign up, it takes 3-5 business days to receive your activation kit, but it may arrive sooner. If you ordered a SIM card and decided to bring your own phone, the activation process is pretty simple. All you have to do is visit the Solavei activation site and enter your SIM card number, then it automatically downloads the APN settings to your Android phone.

The Member Portal

After you enroll in Solavei and create your account, you gain access to the Solavei member portal. This site contains a mini social network for Solavei members, provides support for devices, lets you track your network, and manage account activities. The social network part is a great tool if you have basic questions for other members, but the support site can answer most of your detailed questions about the Solavei program or device support.

The member portal also includes their Outreach Manager that will let you invite other people to the service. There are a lot of helpful tools that let you send videos and invitations to potential members and then see who responds and enrolls in service.

When others enroll and join your network, you can track their progress from the portal. It will show all your Trios, the members that others enroll, and the amount you have earned during a billing cycle.

Overall the member portal is pretty decent for only having launched a couple months ago. They continue to add new features and the experience is getting better with each update.

The Android App

Most of the features found in the desktop portal site are also available in an official Android app. It’s nothing too special, but at least it allows you quick access to your account while you are on the go. I encourage you to check out the Google Play Store reviews for other’s comments on the service.


The Four Types of Compensation

When I first signed up for Solavei I knew you got paid to refer other people, but I didn’t know exactly how it worked. I understood the concept of gaining a Trio (signing up 3 people), but I didn’t realize there were multiple ways to get paid. Solavei offers two monthly sources of income (Trio Pay and Path Pay) and two limited bonuses (Fast Action Bonus and Path Bonus). At first glance, it might appear you could make some decent money, but the reality is it’s going to take a lot of hard work before you really start earning.

1. Fast Action Bonus (FAB)

Solavei offers all members a 60-day incentive program that starts upon their enrollment. It provides members an immediate bonus of up to $650 for members they directly sign up. Bonus payments include $50 for 4 Trios.

Payment structure is as follows:

  • Pays $50 for 1st Trio
  • Pays an additional $50 for 2nd Trio
  • Pays an additional $50 for 3rd Trio
  • Pays an additional $50 for 4th Trio
  • Maxes out at $200 bonus for 4 Trios

Not everyone is going to get their full Fast Action Bonus, but every little bit helps. It can help you pay your early termination fee is you had to cancel a carrier contract to switch, or you can put the money towards a new unlocked phone.

2. Trio Pay

Trio Pay earns you $20 per month for every Trio in your Personal Network. The Trio Pay is unlimited in amount and can be built continually, but your Personal Network only goes two levels deep. That means you get credit for your Trios and the Trios of people you directly sign up, but anything deeper than two levels does not count towards Trio Pay.

3. Path Pay

Solavei’s Path Pay and Path Bonuses could add up, but only if you refer tons of people.

Path Pay is the way to get credit for Trios outside of your personal network. As members move up in rank, they receive a monthly Path Pay that is based on the total number of Trios in their network. Each level has a minimum number of Trios in your Personal Network, and then a larger number of Trios for your extended network.

4. One-time Path Bonus

Finally you have the Path Bonus, which is a one-time payment for every time you enter a new Path Band. Signing up 12 Trios could earn you a bonus of $500, netting 100 Trios (300 people!) would earn you $2000, and so on. The highest level of Path Bonus is $20k, but that would require signing up over 6000 people.

My Earnings

To date, I have earned $0 from Solavei. This month I enrolled 17 people, so I have some earnings on the way next month. If my math is correct I should have earned $650 Fast Action Bonus, $100 Trio Pay, and $50 Path Pay. I would consider that a decent payment, but most of it is a one-time bonus.

My regular monthly earnings going forward should be around $150, but I’m still paying Solavei $49 every month for my wireless service. That means my total earnings for using Solavei could be around $100 a month, which is not bad when you consider I was paying Verizon almost $100 per month earlier this year.

The PayCard

Every member gets a Solavei PayCard.

When you enroll with Solavei, they send you a Visa debit card (this might be part of the $49 activation free). On months that you have earnings, Solavei will deposit them to your PayCard. It works like any debit card and you can use the funds on whatever you want. Like I said above, I have yet to actually receive any earnings, so I’ll update this section of the post with my experiences when that has changed.

What if Solavei goes under?

Several years ago there were an endless number of mobile virtual network operators. Everyone from Disney to ESPN had their own wireless service, but most of them went out of business. Recently we have seen another wave of new MVNOs enter the market, and it appears they are here to stay.

Most MVNOs now offer monthly pre-paid plans that are cheaper than any post-paid plan from a carrier. The selection of unlocked devices has also improved, so you can now get the latest devices without having to sign a carrier contract.

Solavei has an experienced leadership team, so I don’t think they are going away anytime soon. Subscribers have an incentive to stick with the company, and I think their customer base will continue to grow as more people learn about the service.

At best, Solavei sticks around and becomes the most popular pre-paid service. If you enroll early and sign up some other members, then you earn a little extra on the side. At worst, they go away in a couple of years and you can switch to any other pre-paid service (and bring your phone with you) since you are not under any contract.

Wrapping Things Up

Regular readers of the site know that I’m a huge fan of pre-paid wireless service. I have been testing Straight Talk and Simple Mobile, but I think I prefer Solavei since they have a more clearly defined data policy. I’m currently using the Samsung Galaxy S III on Solavei, but I plan to get the Nexus 4 when it comes out. T-Mobile’s network offers the fastest 4G HSPA+ download speeds, and I think it’s the best match for a Nexus phone if you live in a metro area.

I know our audience is smart, so I would encourage you to go research Solavei before signing up. This month they are offering a special promotion that waives the first month fee and SIM card fee (a savings of $78), but they are likely to have other promotions in the future if you miss out. Given the nature of their compensation system, it will benefit you more if you sign up sooner rather than later.

If you have any further questions about the service, just leave a comment below and I’ll do my best to answer your questions. For those that want to go ahead and try out the service, here is a referral link.

Full Disclosure

As if it wasn’t already obvious, if you click my referral link and enroll in Solavei service, then I will become your sponsor and get credit for signing you up. I would be honored to be your sponsor and help you enroll other people, but I don’t want to force anyone to sign up. Do your own homework and read the compensation disclosure statement below.

  • The examples we use to describe or explain the Plan, whether on the Solavei.com web site, in videos or oral presentations, or anywhere else, are only for illustration.  They are not representative of the income, if any, that a new Social Member may earn.
  • Solavei makes no guarantee or projection of any Social Member’s potential earnings.
  • Any discussion by a Social Member about the Plan, his or her own compensation, or the amount a potential Social Member can earn under the Plan, is misleading and should be disregarded, unless it is accompanied by a written or electronic copy of this CDS.
  • Success as a Social Member depends entirely on the hard work, diligence, leadership, business sense, timing, good fortune, and other attributes and circumstances of each particular Social Member.

Compensation Disclosure Statement (pdf)

Source: Solavei (Referral link)

Taylor is the founder of Android and Me. He resides in Dallas and carries the Samsung Galaxy S 4 and HTC One as his daily devices. Ask him a question on Twitter or Google+ and he is likely to respond. | Ethics statement

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