Sum rate maximization by power control is an important, challenging, and extensively studied problem in wireless networks. It is a nonconvex optimization problem and achieves a rate region that is in general nonconvex. We derive approximation ratios to the sum rate objective by studying the solutions to two related problems, sum rate maximization using an SIR approximation and max-min weighted SIR optimization. We also show that these two problems can be solved very efficiently, using much faster algorithms than the existing ones in the literature. Furthermore, using a new parameterization of the sum rate maximization problem, we obtain a characterization of the power controlled rate region and its convexity property in various asymptotic regimes. Engineering implications are discussed for IEEE 802.11 networks.