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We have characterized the performance and studied the functional reliability of 45 Mbit/s lightwave transmitters containing proton-bombarded stripe lasers grown in a research environment by molecular beam epitaxy (MBE). We observe that these transmitters have superior performance compared to transmitters containing lasers of similar geometry grown in production facilities by liquid phase epitaxy (LPE), and subsequently processed using the same technology. The reliability data of over 10 000 h indicate that the functional lifetime of the MBE lasers will be limited ultimately by extinction ratio degradation in our circuit strategy. The origin of the degradation is the increase of the spontaneous light at the bias current.