Via experimental results supported by numerical modeling we report the energy-efficiency, bit rate, and modal properties of GaAs-based 980 nm vertical cavity surface emitting lasers (VCSELs). Using our newly established Principles for the design and operation of energy-efficient VCSELs as reported in the Invited paper by Moser et al. (SPIE 9001-02 )  along with our high bit rate 980 nm VCSEL epitaxial designs that include a relatively large etalonto- quantum well gain-peak wavelength detuning of about 15 nm we demonstrate record error-free (bit error ratio below 10-12) data transmission performance of 38, 40, and 42 Gbit/s at 85, 75, and 25°C, respectively. At 38 Gbit/s in a back-toback test configuration from 45 to 85°C we demonstrate a record low and highly stable dissipated energy of only ~179 to 177 fJ per transmitted bit. We conclude that our 980 nm VCSELs are especially well suited for very-short-reach and ultra-short-reach optical interconnects where the data transmission distances are about 1 m or less, and about 10 mm or less, respectively.