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THE telecoms regulator, Independent Communications Authority of South Africa wants the Electronic Communications Act to be amended to allow the government to set cellphone tariffs.
In a move that is expected to be met with stiff resistance from the cellphone industry, Themba Phiri, deputy director-general in the Department of Communications, told Parliament, which is holding hearings into the high cost of telecommunications tariffs in South Africa, that the government was considering the introduction of "a flat rate regime" for cellphone calls.
Phiri said cellphone call charges in South Africa were very high, compared to other countries in the world. This is despite the intervention of former communication minister Siphiwe Nyanda in 2010 to reduce the cost of making cellphone calls.
"The amendment to the (Act) in addressing matters which hinder competition and other related matters needs to observed ... the imposition of a flat rate on mobile voice calls in SA needs to be studied to determine its relevance in today's market ... regulation of transparency in the pricing and the publication of mobile retail prices is a very important policy issue," said Phiri.
Nyanda's intervention reduced cellphone termination rates from R2.50 to 89c a minute in 2010, and this was expected to drop further in March next year to 40c a minute.
Cellphone termination rates is what mobile operators charge consumers to carry calls between different networks.
Phiri said despite this, the cost of making cellphone calls remained "very high". Vodacom and MTN account for highest package price of between R2.50 and R2.58 a minute to make a call.