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The throughput-optimal discrete-rate adaptation policy, when nodes are subject to constraints on the average power and bit error rate, is governed by a power control parameter, for which a closed-form characterization has remained an open problem. The parameter is essential in determining the rate adaptation thresholds and the transmit rate and power at any time, and ensuring adherence to the power constraint. We derive novel insightful bounds and approximations that characterize the power control parameter and the throughput in closed-form. The results are comprehensive as they apply to the general class of Nakagami-m (m ≥1) fading channels, which includes Rayleigh fading, uncoded and coded modulation, and single and multi-node systems with selection. The results are appealing as they are provably tight in the asymptotic large average power regime, and are designed and verified to be accurate even for smaller average powers.