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A 40-GHz mode-locked fiber-ring laser based on an optically controlled modulator is presented and analyzed in detail. The modulator is a monolithic InGaAsP-InP Mach-Zehnder interferometer with integrated semiconductor optical amplifiers, which allows optical pulse generation synchronized to an external optical clock pulse stream. The laser generates nearly transform-limited Gaussian pulses of 2.5-ps width and up to 9-mW mean output power with less than 130 fs of timing jitter, and it is wavelength tunable over more than 30 nm. The relationship between key laser parameters and the output pulse characteristics is analyzed experimentally and numerically. An improved cavity design permits the generation of shorter pulses of 1.0-ps width.