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The performance of 40-Gb/s transmission systems is limited by the nonlinearity of the transmission and dispersion compensating fibers, and hence, optimized dispersion map designs and signal formats are required to extend error-free transmission distances. In this paper, we describe systematic experiments and simulations of return-to-zero (RZ) and nonreturn-to-zero (NRZ) 40-Gb/s transmission over nonzero dispersion-shifted fiber using higher order mode fiber dispersion management devices. We compare the single channel transmission limits due to nonlinear distortion with dispersion compensators positioned at the start and end of each amplifier span (pre- and postcompensation) and show that the transmission distance of NRZ signals can be extended with the use of precompensation due to the reduced self-phase modulation in the transmission fiber. In contrast, the combination of precompensation and RZ format was found to give poor performance, and analysis shows that this is a result of intrachannel four-wave mixing. The best performance was obtained using an RZ signal format and postcompensated spans. The performance of wavelength-division multiplexing (WDM) signal transmission over the link was then investigated. The simultaneous transmission of multiple 40-Gb/s channels over long-distances was achieved, demonstrating broad-band compensation of the dispersion and dispersion-slope using higher order mode fiber. Results of experiments assessing cross-phase modulation between 40-Gb/s WDM channels spaced by 100 GHz are presented, and the penalties due to inter- and intrachannel nonlinear effects are compared.