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We consider coded modulation schemes for the block-fading channel. In the setting where a codeword spans a finite number N of fading degrees of freedom, we show that coded modulations of rate R bit per complex dimension, over a finite signal set χ⊆C of size 2M, achieve the optimal rate-diversity tradeoff given by the Singleton bound δ(N,M,R)=1+└N(1-R/M)┘, for R∈(0,M┘. Furthermore, we show also that the popular bit-interleaved coded modulation achieves the same optimal rate-diversity tradeoff. We present a novel coded modulation construction based on blockwise concatenation that systematically yields Singleton-bound achieving turbo-like codes defined over an arbitrary signal set χ⊂C. The proposed blockwise concatenation significantly outperforms conventional serial and parallel turbo codes in the block-fading channel. We analyze the ensemble average performance under maximum-likelihood (ML) decoding of the proposed codes by means of upper bounds and tight approximations. We show that, differently from the additive white Gaussian noise (AWGN) and fully interleaved fading cases, belief-propagation iterative decoding performs very close to ML on the block-fading channel for any signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) and even for relatively short block lengths. We also show that, at constant decoding complexity per information bit, the proposed codes perform close to the information outage probability for any block length, while standard block codes (e.g., obtained by trellis termination of convolutional codes) have a gap from outage that increases with the block length: this is a different and more subtle manifestation of the so-called "interleaving gain" of turbo codes.