Who Scales It Best? Inside Blockchains’ Ongoing Transactions-Per-Second Race
QtumX protocol can reportedly handle more than 10,000 transaction per second. What about others?
Open-source project Qtum representatives claim that their enterprise blockchain dubbed ‘QtumX’ can accommodate “more than 10,000” transactions per second (TPS), according to a press release recently shared with Cointelegraph.
With yet another player being added to the scalability race, it makes sense to look back and see how the main blockchains and cryptocurrencies stand in regard to TPS — and whether their numbers are actually authentic.
Transaction speed: How important is it?
Scalability is one of cryptocurrencies’ main issues, especially when it comes to the older coins. In fact, one of the first public comments on Bitcoin’s (BTC) white paper opened with the following line: “We very, very much need such a system, but the way I understand your proposal, it does not seem to scale to the required size.”
Ten years on, the problem still persists — the original blockchain can reportedly process only around seven TPS, which eventually led to dire consequences. At the end of 2017, Bitcoin users had to pay around $28 in fees so their transactions wouldn’t take days to complete. Those problems resulted in a hard fork and a new Bitcoin-based currency, Bitcoin Cash (BCH), which moved on to increase the maximum block size up to eight megabytes from just one.
Many other, newer cryptocurrencies have since attempted to create their own blockchains, which are allegedly faster and cheaper. Their primary goal was often to beat the ultimate crypto nemesis, the centralized global payment system Visa, which can process 24,000 TPS, according to the IBM study conducted back in 2010. Many blockchains have since surpassed that point during their scalability race, but only on paper.
It is important to recognize that while TPS, confirmation time and scalability in general might be important for the long-awaited mass adoption to come, they are not the only criteria. Many cryptocurrencies claim to have high TPS performance these days, but the transaction speed is often dependable and is generally hard to measure — especially with real-time traffic instead of test networks, with their ideal conditions in terms of latency. As a result, many of the claimed TPS are different from their actual value.
Besides, even with a high TPS, the demand might not be there. This has been clearly visualized on the Txstreet website, where every transaction is pictured as a person, and they fill up buses that represent the block space of BTC and BCH. BCH has more buses — as its block size is bigger — but few passengers to fill them. On contrary, while there are just two buses for BTC, they fill quickly, and a lot of people are left crowded on the pavement, waiting to hop on the next block. Even the above mentioned Visa, which has the capacity to run at 24,000 TPS, reportedly does only 2,000 TPS on average, and up to 4,000 during peak hours — in other words, it doesn’t need more at this point.
Claimed TPS capacity: 10,000
Qtum developers recently ran the blockchain’s benchmark on Amazon EC2 virtual server and, according to its own estimations, QtumX “is able to handle more than 10,000 TPS.” They stress that, due to the high speed, transactions are supposedly confirmed as soon as they are sent to the network.
It is important to note that QtumX has not been audited by third parties, and it is therefore impossible to confirm the authenticity of Qtum’s press release at this point. Similar to QtumX is Aelf, another business-oriented blockchain solution, whose development team reported achieving as many as 15,000 TPS during the initial test run in August 2018.
Claimed TPS capacity: 50,000 (estimated: 1,500)
According to Ripple, XRP, the digital asset used in the company’s cross-border payment system, “consistently handles 1,500 transactions per second.” Moreover, it allegedly takes just around four seconds for payments to settle, while XRP can scale up to 50,000 TPS “to handle the same throughput as Visa.”
However, unlike most other currencies mentioned in this article, Ripple doesn’t have a blockchain. For that purpose, the company has its own patented technology: the Ripple protocol consensus algorithm. Consequently, XRP has been disregarded as a cryptocurrency by part of the community.
Estimated TPS capacity: 15
Ethereum (ETH) scales poorly even despite a large amount of miners: Currently, its blockchain accommodates around 20 TPS. However, the situation is likely to change once ETH moves from the proof-of-work (PoW) to the proof-of-stake (PoS) algorithm.
That will reportedly be implemented in the new protocol called Casper — Friendly Finality Gadget, which will also employ sharding on top of PoS. Cointelegraph has covered the protocol in greater detail in a separate article.
However, Ethereum developers have been failing to run upgrades on time. Most recently, they rescheduled the Constantinople hard fork to late February after finding a vulnerability hours prior to the original time of release. Therefore, it is unclear when exactly Casper will be introduced. However, it might arrive as soon as this year, according to its developers.
Claimed TPS capacity: 3,996 (estimated: 50)
In July 2018, EOS’s chief technology officer, Daniel Larimer, tweeted that its cryptocurrency was performing at 2,351 TPS. A few months later, blockchain testing company Whiteblock published results of “the first independent benchmark testing of the EOS software.” The report showed that with “real world conditions” of round-trip latency and 0.01 percent packet loss, EOS performance was actually below 50 TPS, “putting the system in close proximity to the performance that exists in Ethereum.”
Later, the EOS Alliance, a nonprofit organization formed by EOS community members and block producers with the role to “facilitate the dialogue within community,” published a response signed by its interim executive director, Thomas Cox. It criticized Whiteblock’s “provocative paper,” noting that the benchmarking firm “only recruited Ethereum folks for the project.”
Claimed TPS capacity: 1,000
Stellar (XLM) is a payment technology built on the Ripple protocol. However, unlike its parent company, Stellar aims to work with developing markets instead of banking systems and other well-established financial institutes.
Stellar has been reported to have different TPS. Thus, according to an employee at Light Year, a network powered by Stellar, its blockchain can process up to 1,000 TPS. However, as per Barclays Africa's chief executive for corporate and investment banking, Stephen van Coller, a test of the Stellar-powered prototype found that it could process 36 million transactions an hour using Google cloud servers, which is around 10,000 TPS.
Estimated TPS capacity: 56
Litecoin (LTC) is reported to handle 56 TPS on its blockchain. However, as Litecoin creator Charlie Lee notes, the Lightning Network protocol could drastically boost TPS numbers of both LTC and BTC by adding an extra layer.
Claimed TPS capacity: 2,000
In June 2018, Tron (TRX) launched its mainnet, migrating off the Ethereum network. In an accompanying blog post, the startup reported to have reached a speed of 2,000 TPS on its test network. In July, the protocol’s CEO, Justin Sun, boasted that Tron “is 80 times faster than Ethereum,” implying that it has reached 1,200 TPS on the mainnet. That information has not been confirmed by third-party benchmarks.
Claimed TPS capacity: 250
Cardano is a platform for maintaining the operations of the cryptocurrency dubbed ADA. During a recent ”Ask Me Anything” session on YouTube, co-founder Charles Hoskinson mentioned that Cardano can allegedly process between 50 and 250 TPS. However, Hoskinson noted that, with the addition of sidechains in the future, Cardano will be able to handle upward of 5,000 TPS.
Claimed TPS capacity: 1,500 (estimated: ~50)
IOTA (MIOTA) is a cryptocurrency that uses the so-called “Tangle” instead of a conventional blockchain, which allegedly allows it to achieve “infinite scaling” — the network gets faster as more users join, the creators claim.
However, in a Medium post, community member Kay Kurokawa criticized IOTA’s model, essentially arguing that it is centralized and does not guarantee better scaling when compared to other cryptocurrencies. Previously, IOTA has reported that it aimed at reaching 1,000 TPS during stress tests. As per recent spam test run by a Reddit user u/-EniQma-, the IOTA Tangle averaged 45 TPS over a 10 minute period. The current TPS of Tangle could be analyzed through tackers like tanglemonitor.com.