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T-Mobile's 'secret menu': Extra goodies you need to ask for

For a limited time, T-Mobile is offering up mobile hot-spot capability to customers on the 5GB or 10GB premium data plans as a free add-on--you just need to ask for it.

The Nokia Lumia 710 is another example of T-Mobile's push to go after bargain-seekers.
Brian Bennett/CNET

T-Mobile USA's stores may not offer the Double-Double burger, but they do have their own secret menu a la In-N-Out.

Starting January 25, existing and new customers who sign up for a T-Mobile premium data plan--which consists of signing up for 5 gigabytes to 10GB of data each month--can get the mobile hot-spot capability for free--as long as they ask for it. TMoNews first reported the news, noting that customers could also ask for a mobile album feature, which provides 10GB of cloud storage for media.

That's $19.98 in additional value for signing up for the higher end plans. The features, however, won't be widely promoted in the store, so customers will need to ask for them, just as customers have had to learn from word of mouth about the items on In-N-Out's now not-so-secret menu. The offer is only available for a limited time.

The promotions are just the latest move for T-Mobile, which is attempting to win back customers and re-establish itself as an independent competitor after its deal with AT&T fell through. At the Consumer Electronics Show, T-Mobile USA CEO Philipp Humm struck a defiant tone, gleefully pointing out the "gifts" that AT&T had left it ($3 billion in a break-up fee, plus roaming agreements and spectrum), and declaring that it was back on course as the industry's disruptive force.

Indeed, the window appears to be opening for T-Mobile to potentially nab some market share from the bigger players. AT&T, despite its push for more affordable service, decided to hike the prices for its data plans, which some believe could lead to a defection to lower priced options. Over the past few months, the company has stepped up its aggressive offers in an effort to win over new customers. It is also offering more affordable phones such as the well-reviewed Nokia Lumia 710 for $50.

T-Mobile still has an uphill battle. It's now the only major carrier without the iPhone, a gap it hopes to fill eventually, but hasn't had much luck with yet. The carrier said recently, however, that it could technically happen with the next version of Apple's smartphone. It's also the only major carrier not yet moving to LTE, instead relying on its HSPA+ network, which it calls 4G.

Still, these special discounts and promotions help. A T-Mobile representative said the carrier will offer such promotions from time to time without any national advertising, but will get the word out through digital advertising, its Web site, or in-store posters or brochures. Many are available when you call into customer care lines too.

T-Mobile's mobile hot spot and album offer comes with the purchase of a 5GB plan, which costs $89.99 a month, or a 10GB plan, which costs $119.99 a month.

For prepaid customers, T-Mobile plans to offer a $50 mail-in rebate card for the Samsung Exhibit II or the Sidekick with the purchase of two months on a $50 Monthly4G plan. The offer starts on February 1.

A T-Mobile representative said the company plans to offer more promotions throughout the year.