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A generalized theoretical analysis of an AC-coupled fiber-optic burst-mode receiver is presented. This receiver is designed to operate in optical burst-switching networks using DC-balanced data coding such as 8B10B. Analytic expressions for the recovery time are derived as a function of the system dynamic range, power penalty, and data coding format. The theoretical calculations are verified with a detailed simulation. It is shown that locking time of the order of nanoseconds can be achieved with commercially available AC-coupled receivers. The burst-mode receiver can adapt to large (>10 dB) amplitude variations in 30 ns with a power penalty of 2 dB at 12.5 Gb/s. An overall optimization of the transmitter-receiver link-setup time is performed for an optical burst-switching network based on tunable laser transmitters. The dark interval during laser tuning (∼50 ns) is shown to have a beneficial impact on the receiver's response time, effectively reducing its locking time to a few nanoseconds, thus resulting in an overall link setup time of about 50 ns, limited by the laser's tuning time.