Exciton-mediated excitation of Er3+ in erbium doped silicon rich silicon oxide (SRSO) is investigated. Er-doped SRSO films were fabricated by electron cyclotron-resonance plasmaenhanced chemical vapor deposition of Er-doped SiOx (x < 2) using SiH4 and O2 as source gases and co-sputtering of Er, followed by an anneal at 950 °C. Very weak visible luminescence from Si nanocluster relative to Er3+ luminescence were observed, indicating a very efficient excitation of Er3+ ions by Si nanoclusters. From detailed modeling and analysis of time-resolved Er3+ luminescence as the excitation duration and excitation power, we conclude that exciton-erbium coupling is dominant over exciton-nanocluster. The results are consistent with the proposal that the luminescent Er3+ ions are located predominantly in the SiO2 layer.