Today’s optical communication systems are fast approaching their capacity limits in the conventional telecom bands. Opening up new wavelength bands is becoming an appealing solution to the capacity crunch. However, this ordinarily requires the development of optical transceivers for any new wavelength band, which is time-consuming and expensive. Here, we present an on-chip continuous spectral translation method that leverages existing commercial transceivers to unlock the vast and currently unused potential new wavelength bands. The spectral translators are continuous-wave laser pumped aluminum gallium arsenide on insulator (AlGaAsOI) nanowaveguides that provide a continuous conversion bandwidth over an octave. We demonstrate coherent transmission in the 2-μm band using well-developed conventional C-band transmitters and coherent receivers, as an example of the potential of the spectral translators that could also unlock communications at other wavelength bands. We demonstrate 318.25-Gbit s−1 Nyquist wavelength-division multiplexed coherent transmission over a 1.15-km hollow-core fibre using this approach. Our demonstration paves the way for transmitting, detecting, and processing signals at wavelength bands beyond the capability of today’s devices.