Rumors of a new ASIC mining rig from Bitmain have driven Ethereum prices well below their one-week high of $585. An ASIC – or Application-specific integrated circuit – in the cryptocurrency world is a chip that designers create for the specific purpose of mining a single currency. Early Bitcoin ASICs, for example, drove adoption up and then, in some eyes, centralized Bitcoin mining in a few hands, thereby thwarting the decentralized ethos of die-hard cryptocurrency fans.
According to a CNBC report, analyst Christopher Rolland visited China where he unearthed rumors of a new ASIC chip dedicated to Ethereum mining.
“During our travels through Asia last week, we confirmed that Bitmain has already developed an ASIC [application-specific integrated circuit] for mining Ethereum, and is readying the supply chain for shipments in 2Q18,” analyst Christopher Rolland wrote in a note to clients Monday. “While Bitmain is likely to be the largest ASIC vendor (currently 70-80% of Bitcoin mining ASICs) and the first to market with this product, we have learned of at least three other companies working on Ethereum ASICs, all at various stages of development.”
Historically users have mined Ethereum using GPUs which, in turn, led to the unavailability of GPUs for gaming and graphics. However, an ASIC would change the mining equation entirely, resulting in a certain amount of centralization as big players – including Bitmain – created higher barrier to entry for casual miners.
“Ethereum is of the most profitable coins available for GPU mining,” said Mikhail Avady, founder of TryMining.com. “It’s going to affect a lot of the market. Without understanding the hash power of these Bitmain machines we can’t tell if it will make GPUs obsolete or not.”
“It can be seen as an attack on the network. It’s a centralization problem,” he said.
Avady points out that there is a constant debate among cryptocurrency aficionados regarding ASICs and their effect on the market. Some are expecting a move to more mineable coins including Monero and ZCash.
“What would be bad is if there was only one Ethereum ASIC manufacturer,” he said. “But with Samsung and a couple other players getting into the game it won’t be bad for long.”
There is also concern over ICO launches and actual utility of Ethereum-based smart contract tokens. “The price of ETH is becoming consolidated as people become more realistic about blockchain technology,” said Sky Guo, CEO of Cypherium. “People are looking for higher quality blockchain projects. I believe a rebound in ETH’s price will come soon as panic surrounding regulations begins to fade.”