What is Bitcoin Halving?


Mario Lagos

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Unlike fiat currencies, there is a fixed amount of Bitcoin (BTC) that can or will ever exist. We know there can only be 21 million BTC in circulation, of which 19 million are currently available while the remainder is ‘locked away’ until it can be mined. Every four years, the amount of BTC extracted by mining falls by 50 per cent; this is known as the ‘halving’ process. This mechanism is central to the value of BTC and is written into its algorithm to help constrain supply. With BTC set to half in April 2024, investors are paying close attention to the cryptocurrency ahead of the process, which has historically seen its value boosted.

What is Bitcoin mining? 

The process through which new bitcoins are created is known as Bitcoin mining. It is a crucial aspect of the decentralised nature of Bitcoin, relying on a network of participants known as miners. These miners employ computational power to solve complex mathematical puzzles, validating and securing transactions while contributing to issuing new bitcoins.

The foundation of Bitcoin mining lies in the concept of proof-of-work (PoW), a consensus mechanism ensuring the integrity of the blockchain. When a user initiates a Bitcoin transaction, it is broadcast to the network. Miners then collect these transactions into blocks and compete to solve a cryptographic puzzle. The first miner to successfully solve the puzzle broadcasts the solution to the network, verifying the block and adding it to the blockchain.

The puzzle-solving process involves finding a specific numerical value, called a nonce, that, when hashed along with the block’s data, produces a hash with certain properties. This process requires significant computational power and energy consumption. Miners utilise specialised hardware, such as Application-Specific Integrated Circuits (ASICs), to perform these calculations efficiently.

By the end of 2023, the total computational power of the Bitcoin network, known as hash rate, was reported to have reached unprecedented levels, making it highly secure against malicious attacks. This arms race among miners has led to the development of mining pools, where miners combine their computational resources and share the rewards based on their contribution to the network.

The Bitcoin protocol undergoes a halving event every 210,000 blocks, approximately every four years. During the halving process, the reward given to miners for succeeding in adding a new block to the blockchain is reduced by 50 per cent. This event is programmed to occur 32 times until the maximum supply of 21 million bitcoins is reached, making Bitcoin a deflationary digital currency.

Given its energy-intensive nature, Bitcoin mining’s environmental impact has been a topic of debate. However, the industry is evolving with the development of more energy-efficient mining technologies and a growing emphasis on renewable energy sources.

Bitcoin mining is a decentralised process that involves solving complex mathematical puzzles through proof-of-work. This ensures the security and integrity of the blockchain while creating new bitcoins. The continual advancement of mining hardware, the emergence of mining pools, and the periodic halving events contribute to the dynamic and evolving nature of Bitcoin mining.

When is the next Bitcoin halving?

The Bitcoin halving occurs approximately every four years, specifically after the completion of 210,000 blocks. The initial halving occurred in 2012, followed by subsequent events in 2016 and 2020. The next Bitcoin halving is set to take place in April 2024. 

Bitcoin halving countdown website bitcoinblockhalf.com purports to provide a real-time timer leading to the moment of the next drop. It predicts that the event will take place on April 1st, 2024, at 23:47 UTC. 

The Bitcoin network adjusts the mining difficulty every 2016 blocks, to maintain a consistent block time of around 10 minutes. This adjustment helps ensure that the halving occurs roughly every four years, regardless of changes in the network hash rate. This means reputable sources can provide accurate real-time data on the block height and, therefore, predict the date of the next halving. 

Does halving increase the price of Bitcoin?

Bitcoin halving results in a reduction in the rate at which new bitcoins are created and introduced into circulation. This scarcity effect is a crucial factor influencing the cryptocurrency’s price. With each halving, the reward for miners is cut in half, slowing down the pace at which new bitcoins are mined. This reduction in the supply rate contributes to the overall scarcity of bitcoins in the market.

Historically, Bitcoin has experienced price surges following each halving event. The reduction in the rate of new supply, combined with growing demand, has often led to increased scarcity perception among investors, triggering upward price movements.

For instance, the 2012 and 2016 halving events were followed by significant price rallies. In 2012, Bitcoin’s price surged from around $12 to over $1,100 within a year after the halving. Similarly, in 2016, the price increased from approximately $650 to nearly $20,000 by the end of 2017.

However, while historical patterns suggest post-halving price increases, it’s crucial to note that the effects may not be immediate. There can be a lag between the actual halving event and the significant price movements. The market often takes time to absorb and reflect the implications of the reduced supply, and the full impact may unfold over several months or even years.

Various external factors, such as macroeconomic conditions, regulatory developments, and market sentiment, also influence Bitcoin’s price dynamics. These factors can interact with the halving effects, either amplifying or mitigating their impact on price.

But as Bitcoin matures and becomes more widely accepted, market reactions to halving events may evolve. Traders and investors could incorporate halving expectations into their strategies more efficiently, potentially moderating the magnitude of price movements compared to earlier years.

Will the 2024 Bitcoin halving increase Bitcoin price?

Reportedly, Bitcoin could be on the verge of undergoing a Supercycle. According to Forbes, the upcoming April 2024 halving could be a catalyst for this potential Supercycle, an event which would see investor enthusiasm reach new heights as a new bull begins.

The outlet cites several analysts, including ‘Plan B’ and Blockware Solutions, who project that prices could soar more than $500,000 per BTC. Reporting for Forbes, Bitcoin journalist Susie Violet Ward writes:

“A blend of elements set the stage for a potential global economic boom in the world of bitcoin. Despite the cryptocurrency market’s well-known fluctuations, current indicators and expert analyses paint an optimistic picture of Bitcoin’s future, hinting at the potential for record-breaking valuations. Many factors are aligning for a supercharged bull run in 2024.”

Others are more pessimistic. Some analysts have talked about a Bitcoin ‘death spiral’ wherein miners leave the network as a consequence of a drop in profitability. However, when the CEO of Blockstream, Adam Back, spoke to Cointelegraph last year, he said such an event would be unlikely when Bitcoin halves in April 2024. He told Cointelegraph: 

“Mining profitability has more than doubled this year. So, if it halves at the halving, they’re still in a better position than in January, and the hash rate went up all through that period.”

Price projections following Bitcoin’s halving divide opinion, but many analysts appear positive. Some experts anticipate a substantial surge, while others contend that the halving’s impact may already be factored into Bitcoin’s current value.

According to BitQuant, as reported by Nasdaq and VettaFi, a post-halving price surge could see Bitcoin reaching up to $250,000, a remarkable increase exceeding nine times its current valuation. Coincodex takes a more conservative stance, forecasting Bitcoin’s value to reach approximately $49,300 by April 2024, with the potential for a rally to around $84,100 following the halving. Bloomberg aligns with a positive outlook, suggesting that Bitcoin could surpass $50,000 by 2024, attributing this growth to the imminent halving and an anticipated 81% increase in value.

Cryptonews, on the other hand, anticipates even more significant gains, projecting Bitcoin to exceed $100,000 and potentially reach $300,000 by 2028. Their post-halving price range falls between $60,000 and $90,000. Standard Chartered offers a moderate prediction, foreseeing Bitcoin’s value hitting $100,000 by the end of 2024. They attribute this growth to Bitcoin’s distinctive characteristics as a decentralised and scarce digital asset.

Should I invest in Bitcoin? 

As Bitcoin approaches its scheduled halving in April 2024, the cryptocurrency landscape is rife with speculation and contrasting predictions regarding its future price trajectory. The unique mechanism of Bitcoin halving, occurring every four years and reducing the rate of new supply, has historically fuelled price surges. However, the question of whether Bitcoin is a good investment and the considerations one should make before delving into this volatile market warrant careful examination.

Bitcoin’s scarcity is intrinsic to its design, with a fixed supply of 21 million coins, a feature that distinguishes it from traditional fiat currencies. The impending halving, reducing mining rewards by 50 per cent, adds another layer to the cryptocurrency’s scarcity narrative. Historical trends suggest that previous halving events led to significant price rallies, attracting attention from both institutional and retail investors.

As for the next halving event in April 2024, predictions vary widely. Projections from BitQuant suggest a post-halving surge that could propel Bitcoin’s price to $250,000. Coincodex takes a more conservative stance, forecasting values around $49,300 by April 2024, with a potential rally to $84,100 after the halving. Cryptonews offers an even more optimistic outlook, projecting Bitcoin to exceed $100,000 and potentially reach $300,000 by 2028.

Investors must approach these predictions cautiously and consider the dynamic factors influencing Bitcoin’s price. While historical patterns indicate post-halving increases, the market’s response may not be immediate, and external factors such as macroeconomic conditions and regulatory developments can also play a role.

Before making any investment decision, you should always seek financial advice. Financial advisors assist in developing a diversified portfolio, spreading investments across different assets to manage risk. They consider an investor’s risk tolerance, time horizon, and financial objectives, crafting a personalised plan that balances potential returns with acceptable levels of risk.

In conclusion, investing in Bitcoin demands a nuanced approach. Potential rewards exist, but so do risks, including market volatility, regulatory uncertainties, and the evolving dynamics of the cryptocurrency space. As Bitcoin matures and gains wider acceptance, investors should remain vigilant, conduct thorough research, and diversify their portfolios to navigate the unpredictable terrain of the cryptocurrency market.

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Mario Laghos​

Mario Laghos is a journalist. His work has appeared in the Critic magazine, the Daily Express, and the Daily Mail

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