We have studied RF transmission over various multimode fibers (MMFs) and a standard single-mode fiber, targeting picocellular networks for voice, data, and video applications. Bandwidth requirements of MMF links that are based on vertical-cavity surface-emitting laser (VCSEL) have been extensively studied. The performance of the radio-over-fiber link is assessed in terms of the error vector magnitude. Also conducted was a full system analysis, including the investigation of an achievable dynamic range and a noise figure for different low-cost architectures. This was compared to coax-based RF transmission. The IEEE 802.11 a/b/g standard, as well as other applications like radio frequency identification tracking, was considered. For experimental investigations, we have used both commercial wireless access points and a vector signal generator as a signal source, with two types of directly modulated VCSELs - 850-nm sources and 1310-nm high-speed uncooled single-mode AlGaInAs/InP VCSELs. A robust system performance was demonstrated in both 2.4- and 5-GHz RF bands, and record multimode and standard single-mode fiber transmission distances were achieved. A transponder design that can meet system requirements in terms of sensitivity (< -90 dBm) and spurious-free dynamic range (> 95 dBldrHz2/3) for a dual-band wireless LAN (WLAN) fiber-radio picocellular network was developed. A full 14-cell experimental WLAN system with cells of 4-m radius was implemented to study networking issues such as handoff and cochannel interference.