Abstract Optical absorption, fluorescence and laser characteristics of Ho 3+ incorporated (1 % molar) glass systems of 48ZrF 4-23BaF 2-8A1F 3-20RF (RF = LiF-NaF or NaF-KF pair) were examined. Physical properties such as density, refractive index, mean atomic volume, molar refractivity and dielectric constant were measured. The measured absorption intensities were matched with the best fit Judd-Ofelt intensity parameters. The effects of the holmium glass chemical compositions were examined for properties such as spontaneous emission probabilities, branching ratios and radiative lifetimes of lasing transitions by the use of the Judd-Ofelt model. Studies were also carried out to understand the mixed alkali fluoride effects on the measured values of induced emission cross sections for the observed luminescent transitions 5 I 7.6, 5 F 5 and 5 S 2 → 5 I 8 of holmium glasses.