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We compare nonreturn-to-zero (NRZ) with return-to-zero (RZ) modulation format for wavelength-division-multiplexed systems operating at data rates up to 40 Gb/s. We find that in 10-40-Gb/s dispersion-managed systems (single-mode fiber alternating with dispersion compensating fiber), NRZ is more adversely affected by nonlinearities, whereas RZ is more affected by dispersion. In this dispersion map, 10- and 20-Gb/s systems operate better using RZ modulation format because nonlinearity dominates. However, 40-Gb/s systems favor the usage of NRZ because dispersion becomes the key limiting factor at 40 Gb/s.