How large a block can Bitcoin handle? Gigablock Testnet Initiative sets off to find out

Now that Bitcoin Cash has proven that larger blocks is feasible, the path has been paved, so to speak, towards taking this strategy to a new level.

We discussed previously how the Bitcoin network is plagued by slow transaction times and hefty transaction fees, which make the cryptocurrency barely usable for microtransactions. Even the activation of SegWit, which claimed that its capacity increase is basically equivalent to raising the block size, has clearly shown that it does very little to scale Bitcoin.

Increasing the network’s block size limit from 1MB is needed to reduce fees and make confirmation times reliable again. Bitcoin Cash has already shown that lower fees are acceptable, although confirmation times can still be skewed due to the current network situation.

Addressing the need for a ‘stress test’

One primary technical factor that prevents the block size limit from being raised is the concern that the Bitcoin network may not be able to safely and reliably handle the increase in transaction throughput.

To address this issue, a global test network to “stress test” properly is needed. And this is why BUIP 065, also known as the Gigablock Testnet Initiative, is important for the community.
Backed by Bitcoin Unlimited, nChain and the University of British Columbia, the initiative is setting out to determine how large blocks Bitcoin can handle, while also identifying the bottlenecks that may obstruct the network’s scalability.

The initiative has four main objectives, the team wrote in a Bitcoin Forum post. This includes the “setup and setup and maintain a global test network capable of supporting blocks up to 1GB in size and sustained Visa-level transaction throughput (3,000 TPS).” The group also wants to perform continuous experiments related to on-chain scaling, discover the bottlenecks that affect scaling and disseminate their finding to the Bitcoin community.

“What is needed is a global test network that can be ‘stress tested’ at very high levels of transaction throughput. Such a test network will allow bottlenecks to be identified and fixed ahead of time, providing a safe path to larger block sizes for the Bitcoin network,” according to the Bitcoin Forum post.

The project is intended to run for five years, but the team said members of Bitcoin Unlimited can vote to terminate the project ahead of schedule after the first 12 months. Funding will continue for three more months while the group wraps up the operations.

“We suspect this project will clearly demonstrate that Visa-level throughput can be reached and sustained on a global test network of mining nodes with today’s technology and for costs affordable to businesses, universities, and hobbyists,” the team said.

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