Arlington's new cable television system, the first major system in the Washington area, could become the prototype for future systems around the country, Federal Communications Commissioner Joseph Fogarty said yesterday while inaugurating the service.

The $7.2 million system, which is owned by Arlington Telecommunications Corp. (Artec), is set to begin offering service to about 1,500 homes in the Clarendon and Lyon Village areas of Arlington today. Artec officials expect to complete the county-wide cable network in 18 to 20 months.

Artec's Metrocable service will provide subscribers with all Washington commercial stations, all Baltimore commercial stations, four educational stations, Atlanta's WTCG owned by Atlanta Braves owner Ted Turner, a family channel including religious programming and events from Madison Square Garden, and automated information channels including radar weather and a local comparative shopping guide. It also includes Home Box Office, which provides uncut movies, special and sports events without commercials.

Artec also provides two channels for the county government, four for the county schools and one for the public.

The premium service costs $16.90 a month, but county residents may also subscribe to the Metrocable II service which does not include the Home Box Office features for $7.95.

Metrocable has been designated an "experimental" system because it has the special channels dedicated to county government and schools and is offering services such as a community bulletin board, programming guide, and is even planned to help with the control of traffic signals, Fogarty said.