Computer shops embrace lucrative business: outfitting cryptocurrency miners
21 Feb 2018

Some of the biggest electronics bazaars in Asia are being flooded with customers looking for the latest piece of technology: cryptocurrency mining rigs.

Scores of miners from around the world are traveling to places like Hong Kong’s Sham Shui Po and Singapore’s Sim Lim Square to buy the rigs, which the shops’ hardware geeks expertly build behind counters in their cramped boutiques.

Some miners only buy components: a motherboard, graphic processing units, fans, power adapters, a display card and a memory card. But even if the vendors assemble them on the spot for a small fee, the finished product is usually still a relative bargain.

“It’s 30-50 percent cheaper to buy equipment related to cryptomining in Hong Kong than in Europe,” Russian bitcoin miner Dima Popov said. Hong Kong, for instance, has no sales tax and is closer to component suppliers.
Popov buys display cards, motherboards and power supplies in Hong Kong and mines cryptocurrencies in Russia, where electricity is cheaper and the climate is more suitable.

The demand for the rigs has added a new dimension to Asia’s tech shopping hubs whose once bustling business fizzled out in recent years hit by waning demand for personal computers. Storefronts that once catered mostly to locals, selling phones and other consumer gear, are now greeting foreign visitors searching for hardware that might make them rich.

DIGITAL MINING

The rigs are often stacked in warehouses as large as airplane hangars and are monitored constantly.

Each unit contains energy-intensive processors that solve complex mathematical computations. When they do so, they are awarded them the right to validate a blockchain transaction, earning them a “mining” fee.

One cryptocurrency expert said anecdotal evidence suggests on average miners would get their money back in about three months. But those with small, home-based operations might have to wait much longer for a payoff.

In Hong Kong, shopkeepers say most buyers come from Russia, but they have had clients from western Europe, Africa and South Korea. Singapore sees visitors from neighboring countries with cheaper operation costs.

Their mining machines’ parts are mostly manufactured in China using chips from Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) (AMD.O) and Nvidia (NVDA.O), who are looking for export customers amid fears that Beijing will crack down on cryptocurrency miners.

– By Wyman Ma, Dewey Sim and Ju-Min Park. Reuters. 21 Feb 2018

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