In this paper, we examine how typical transmission systems can be made tunable in datarate, up to 100 Gb/s, through modulation-format versatility. We investigate through extensive numerical simulations the available reach versus datarate, taking in particular into account the nonlinear interaction between channels in this mixed-format context. We show how these versatile transmission systems can be used to design a so-called elastic optical network in which the datarate of a wavelength is adapted to both the traffic that needs to be transported and the amount of physical impairments that need to be overcome. We examine the benefits of such elastic optical networks in the case of a European backbone network, showing that elastic architectures outperform fixed-rate networks by up to 21% in terms of required number of opto-electronic interfaces.
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