Er3+ emission and laser properties at 1.5 micrometers have been studied in a fluoride phosphate glass (FP20) and in different meta- and ultraphosphate glasses. Moreover, the commercial Kigre QW phosphate glass has been investigated. The effect of glass composition, oxygen bubbling during melting procedure, and sodium content on Judd-Ofelt parameters, on linewidth, and emission cross section at 1.5 micrometers has been determined. Emission decay behavior and lifetimes at 1.5 micrometers have been examined with respect to OH content, Er3+ concentration, and calculated emission lifetime. Gain spectra were calculated for FP20 and QX glass for estimation of laser output and tuning range. Laser performance has been investigated for FP20, QX and ultraphosphate glasses. The laser properties are discussed in terms of gain spectra characteristics, emission cross sections, OH content, and optical quality of the samples. Results demonstrate that the FP20 glass is a very attractive host material for broadband amplifiers and ultraphosphate glasses have a potential for application in high peak power lasers. Furthermore, it is shown that the use of high sodium oxide content required for fabrication of ion-exchanged waveguides does not deteriorate the Er3+ emission properties.© (2000) COPYRIGHT SPIE--The International Society for Optical Engineering. Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.