The total computing power now dedicated to securing the bitcoin blockchain has set yet another record.
According to data from mining services operator BTC.com, the average bitcoin mining hash rate over the last two weeks has reached 71.43 quintillion hashes per second (EH/s), up from 64.49EH/s on July 23. The threshold was breached as bitcoin adjusted its mining difficulty at block height 586,672 on Monday 2:52 UTC – that is a 6.94EH/s, or 10.78 percent jump since mid July.
Bitcoin mining difficulty is a measure of how hard it is to compete for mining rewards on bitcoin. Just how difficult the bitcoin software makes it to generate new blocks adjusts every 2,016 blocks – approximately every 14 days – to ensure the block production time remains about 10 minutes at the next cycle.
Assume this additional 6.9EH/s (or 6.9 million tera hashes per second, TH/s) computing power has all come from powerful ASIC miners, such as Bitmain’s AntMiner S17 or MicroBT’s WhatsMiner M20S, both of which boast a mining rate of around 55TH/s and recently hit the market.
That means more than 100,000 top-of-line ASIC miners could have been switched on within the past two weeks. Further, given these products have been sold for at least $2,000 each, this equates to some $200 million in revenue pocketed for major miner makers.
The continued interest in bitcoin mining comes at a time when the cryptocurrency’s price appears to be en route to challenging all-time highs, however distantly, and amid the arrival of the rainy season in China, which leads to cheaper hydropower electricity costs in the country’s southwest provinces – a region that is reported to account for 50 percent of the global mining activity,
Miners in China estimated earlier this year that bitcoin’s hash rate in the summer would break the level of 70EH/s. To be clear, at several single points of time, bitcoin’s hash rate had already crossed that level in June and even reached 80EH/s around Aug. 1.
However, today marks the first time that the two-week average computing power has been able to remain above the 70EH/s threshold. As such, bitcoin’s mining difficulty has also set a new record of nearly 10 trillion.
Amidst this uptick in mining interest, there have been notable changes in the mining market, where top manufacturers are racing to produce more powerful equipment.
For instance, in Bitmain’s 2018 initial public offering prospectus, the Beijing-based mining giant claimed it had a 70 percent market dominance. Now, it may be facing serious competition from rival players that some believe are capable of shipping more top-of-line products with better profitability.
Michael Zhong, a former mining analyst who now operates mining farms at a startup called The Force Mining, told CoinDesk that based on his experience, the production capacity ranking among major Chinese miner makers for their flagship products have changed over the years.
Zhong explained that from 2017 to 2018, Bitmain had topped the list with its AntMiner S9 series miners, followed by Canaan’s Avalon 8 series machines. InnoSilicon, Ebang and former Bitmain design director’s MicroBT were all in the third position at the time.
But from January to June this year, the delivery capacity ranking has reshuffled, with now MicroBT’s WhatsMiner M20 series at the top, followed by Bitmain’s S17 series miners and then InnoSilicon, Canaan, and Ebang, Zhong added.
According to F2pool’s miner profit tracker, Bitmain’s flagship AntMiner S17 Pro ranks third in terms of mining profitability, following BitFury’s Tardis and MicroBT’s WhatsMiner M20S. The cost for WhatsMiner M20S is around $3,000, while that of AntMiner S17 Pro is around $4,000 each, based on the information advertised on the two firms’ websites.
Although orders for these flagship machines have queued up until November and December this year, MicroBT’s founder Zuoxing Yang told CoinDesk previously that the bottleneck of production capacity is the availability of chips from suppliers.
For example, MicroBT uses 10-nm chips for its M20 series, which are relatively more affordable with a higher level of availability compared to more advanced 7-nm chips used by Bitmain for its AntMiner S17 series equipment.
While Bitmain has always been relying on chips supplied by Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), MicroBT has switched from TSMC to Samsung earlier this year for its flagship products.
Both TSMC and Samsung have estimated in their most recent Q2 earnings calls that the demand for cryptocurrency mining chips will come back in the third and the fourth quarter this year.
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