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An all-optical inverter using transverse mode switching in a 1.5-μm vertical-cavity surface-emitting laser (VCSEL) was demonstrated theoretically and experimentally. The fundamental mode in a single-mode VCSEL was strongly suppressed when external light was injected into an LP02 high-order mode, resulting in an on-off ratio of over 20 dB. The polarization dependence of the static optical input--output characteristics of inverter operations was as low as ∼13%. The VCSEL-based optical inverter operated with a 5-Gb/s nonreturn-to-zero (NRZ) input signal. A theoretical result using two-mode rate equations is in good agreement with experimental results.