Er3+-doped halide modified tellurite glasses were synthesized by conventional melting and quenching method. The Judd–Ofelt analysis was performed on the absorption spectra and the transition probabilities, excited state lifetimes, and the branching ratios were calculated and discussed. The intense infrared and visible fluorescence spectra under 980 nm excitation were obtained. Strong upconversion signal was observed at pumping power as low as 30 mW in the glasses with halide ions. The upconversion mechanisms and power dependent intensities were discussed, which showed two-photon process are involved for the green and red emissions. The decay times of the emitting states and the corresponding quantum efficiency were determined and explained. © 2004 American Institute of Physics.