It’s a question that I’m sure many Bitocin owners are asking. In around 90 days from now on 8th May, Bitcoin’s mining reward will be cut in half (that’s what a ‘halving’ means) and crypto commentators believe that it could trigger some significant price activity, and boost the BTC price skywards.
Currently there are approximately 18 million Bitcoin in circulation out of a total of 21 million. But, thanks to the halving protocol, this limit won’t be reached in the near future. Satoshi Nakamoto programmed the Bitcoin network protocol so that a halving would take place every four years, or every 210,000 blocks, and cut miners rewards in half. The idea being that this makes producing more coins more difficult.
This may seem counterintuitive, as miners are incentivised by the rewards. As Edith Muthoni, chief editor at Learnbonds.com told Coinrivet: “This brings us into a seeming conundrum: if miners will no longer receive block rewards (or too little), will they continue mining? What will be their motivation to stay on? What does this mean for the network and Bitcoin?”
The impact on Bitcoin mining
Once upon a time people at home could make some money from Bitcoin mining, but that ended some time ago. However, as we approach this halving, there is a serious question to be answered about how the medium and large-sized mining operations will fare.
There are fewer than three million Bitcoin left to mine, and the hash rate is hitting all-time highs. Given the cutting of rewards, it would seem that the effect on mining at least would be negative. Steve Tsou, CEO of RRMine, a Bitcoin cloud mining operation has gloomy view: “The halving in 2020 will have great impacts on Bitcoin miners: 1) Miners with low mining efficiency will be forced to pause and re-evaluate their business operations. 2) Digital mining is becoming the racetrack for giant international companies because they have more advanced machines and cheaper sources of electricity.”
Tsou’s sentiments are echoed by a number of others in the sector, including Alex Lam, one of China’s most prolific miners and CEO of RockX digital assets. He said “The next Bitcoin halving is likely to result in mining profitability decreasing significantly in the short term.”
However, depending on the price of Bitcoin on 8th May, miners’ profitability may not be so dramatically affected, at least in the short term. If the Bitcoin price rises substantially afterwards, then miners may be able to sustain their profits. A price fall, on the other hand, could see some go out of business.
The impact on Bitcoin’s price
Unless you are a miner, how many Bitcoin owners can honestly say that they are concerned about the impact on mining. What they want to know is the halving’s impact on price.
This is not the first time that a halving has occurred. The BTC price stood at $12 when the mining reward was first cut in November 2012, and stood at $652 at the time of the second halving in July 2016. Of course, as you remember, the following year brought us that sensational bull run, driving Bitcoin to $20,000. Weiss Ratings, which analyses the impact of halving’s on price, said: “So, does the Bitcoin halving help drive prices higher? Absolutely. The only question now is how high will #BTC go this time around?”
Jimmy Nguyen, president of the Bitcoin Association commented: “Some people expect the coin price to magically increase before the halving and help cover the 50% fewer coins. Even if there is some price increase, it is doubtful coin prices will double from now through April or May 2020. So mining will most likely be less profitable after the halving than it currently is.”
Ultimately, what we are likely to see when the Bitcoin halving happens is this: it will have a major impact on mining in the short and long term. Furthermore, we’ll see smaller, less sustainable operations give way to larger mining farms with access to low-cost energy.
Miners, like Bitcoin owners, will be hoping for a hike in the Bitcoin price, because that is the key to ensuring profitable mining, as well as profits for investors.