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Published: Sunday, June 16, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Pay-as-you-go wireless may be a good fit

I've been corresponding with some readers about renewing their cellphone contracts after their two-year commitment is up.
Some readers are more than ready for a new phone, but some are happy with the phones they have. They're wondering if they can save money by bringing the phones they already own to another carrier for a pay-as-you-go plan.
The answer is yes, you can save significant money bringing your own phone and shopping for service.
I've been reviewing prepaid cell service from Solavei, which runs on T-Mobile's 4G LTE network.
Solavei offers unlimited talk, text and data for just $49 per month. That's cheap enough to get my attention.
As a comparison, my Verizon family plan costs $150 per month for two subsidized iPhones with a two-year commitment.
Solavei's website, www.solavei.com, indicates the company's coverage area includes Snohomish County.
The Solavei plan offers unlimited data, but the data speed is limited.
The first 4 gigabytes of data each month are at 4G speeds, if you live a T-Mobile 4G area; after that, data throttles down to 2G speeds. Your download speeds will return to 4G when your next month of service begins.
I've personally never used more than 4 gigabytes in a month, but I don't watch a lot of streaming video on my phone. I think Solavei's data policy is more than fair.
Solavei doesn't sell phones directly. Rather, it has partnered with GSM Nation to provide unlocked GSM phones that are Solavei-ready.
For example, an unlocked 16 GB iPhone 5 is $699. A 16 GB Samsung Galaxy S3 costs $519.
The cheapest 4G phone from GSM Nation is the Samsung Exhibit, which has 8 GB of storage for $179.
Of course, you can always use your own GSM phone. If your household has an old iPhone 4 or 4S, you can use that, but it will only be as fast as the phone's hardware will allow.
Other companies offer similarly priced plans. Boost Mobile (using Sprint's network) has a $50/month unlimited plan, but Boost includes only 2.5 GB of high-speed data per month.
Also, as a comparison, T-Mobile's unlimited bring-your-own-phone plan is $70 per month.
This is the part of Solavei's business plan that makes me a little uneasy.
There's a compensation plan for Solavei users (and nonusers) that pays for referrals. You can earn $20 per month for every three users who say you referred them when they sign up.
There's not really a limit to the number of referrals you can claim.
If you get nine of your friends to sign up, you're making enough to get your service for free.
Help sign up more than nine people? You start earning cash each month.
I know, it sounds like some of that multilevel marketing that makes many of us (including me) cringe.
The key here is you can sign up and use Solavei -- and their nice monthly rate -- without ever having to sell anything.
You don't have to be referred by anyone at all to begin service, and if you don't ever try to get anyone else to sign up, that's fine.

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