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AT&T Labs guru to bolster Excite@Home network

Veteran AT&T Labs technologist Hossein Eslambolchi, who recently spurned a Cisco Systems job offer to return to Ma Bell, may face his most difficult task yet.

The AT&T Labs technologist who recently spurned a Cisco Systems job offer to return to Ma Bell may face his most difficult task yet: fortifying Excite@Home's network.

Hossein Eslambolchi, vice president of data and Internet network services for AT&T Technology, has been named interim president of broadband networks at Excite@Home, according to an Excite@Home representative.

A 16-year veteran at AT&T Technology, the company's research and development unit formerly known as AT&T Bell Laboratories and then AT&T Labs, Eslambolchi is expected to serve a six-month stint at Excite@Home, the world's largest broadband Internet access provider.

Eslambolchi, who holds degrees in electrical engineering and mathematics, was brought in to stabilize the company's network and Internet services and to prepare the network for growth. Excite@Home has had its share of outages and problems in recent years and is preparing for an onslaught of new customers over the next few years.

The company expects to have more than 5 million customers by the end of the year and as many as 10 million customers in just a few years.

After years of uncertain strategies, Excite@Home has made broadband subscriber growth and profitability its top two goals, forsaking Internet content, Web portals and other strategies that had led to mounting quarterly losses.

Eslambolchi joined networking powerhouse Cisco in December only to later reconsider the post. He rejoined AT&T last month.

The move proved to be prescient. Cisco, a historically strong performer in terms of profits and revenue, posted weak earnings results this week and warned of slower growth for the next two quarters.

Excite@Home, majority-owned see story: Exits herald new era at Excite@Homeby AT&T, uses cable modems to deliver high-speed Net access to about 3 million customers using the cable TV networks of AT&T, Cox Communications, Comcast and others.

But over its five-year history, Excite@Home has faced a slew of isolated outages and other network issues. For the most part, industry analysts, investors and company executives have written off the hiccups as inevitable setbacks when introducing a new technology to mass market consumers--and trying to do so at a breakneck pace. After all, the broadband Net market is incredibly competitive.

But, in recent months, brief network outages have reappeared, as have problems with Excite@Home's e-mail system. The company has nearly completed upgrades to its e-mail network, moving to a centralized system from a regionally disperse one, according to company executives.