US WEST Inc. will test an electronic information system here that will allow consumers to make airline reservations, check stock quotes, order theater tickets or check real estate listings, the company said.
US WEST will begin testing the telephone-based videotext service next July, and it should be ready for the full Omaha market in October 1989, officials said."We might even say, `Omaha today, tomorrow the world,' " said Alain Profit, chairman of Intelmatique, a French company that is one of several that will participate in the Omaha system.
US WEST Chairman Jack A. Mac-Allister said the Denver-based regional telephone company chose Omaha to test the service because of its healthy business environment, deregulated and growing telecommunications industry and the commitment of state and local officials to help businesses grow.
"We are planning to learn what we are doing in Omaha and to expand it to other cities," MacAllister said. "We really think it's going to put Omaha in the spotlight."
US WEST will initiate the service by setting up an information gateway - switching equipment and computers - that will connect telephone customers to information stored in computers locally, nationally or internationally.
The system will be available to people who buy or lease special small computer terminals and to those who have home or business computers.
The special terminals may cost $7 or $8 a month to rent, and customers will pay fees for information services based on how much they use the system, the company said.
Similar videotext systems are operating in Boston, Houston, Atlanta, Philadelphia and Burlington, Vt.
The key to a successful videotext system is expanding the number of people using the system and the number of services available, said Linda Laskowski, vice president and general manager of US WEST Communications.
US WEST plans to have at least 7,500 residential and business customers in the system by the end of 1990. Within five to seven years, she said, there may be 40,000 to 50,000 users in Omaha.
MacAllister said the start of videotext also depends on federal court approval of US WEST's plans. The court has had some control over business activities of the regional telephone companies since the Bell system was deregulated in January 1984.
US WEST will spend $8 million to $10 million on equipmment needed to start the system but plans to recoup expenses by charging companies that use the system to offer services to the public, MacAllister said.