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The current status of lithium-niobate external-modulator technology is reviewed with emphasis on design, fabrication, system requirements, performance, and reliability. The technology meets the performance and reliability requirements of current 2.5-, 10-, and 40-Gb/s digital communication systems, as well as CATV analog systems. The current trend in device topology is toward higher data rates and increased levels of integration. In particular, multiple high-speed modulation functions, such as 10-Gb/s return-to-zero pulse generation plus data modulation, have been achieved in a single device.