Why does it take time for a Bitcoin transaction to confirm?

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While the average block time on the Bitcoin blockchain is around 10 minutes, transaction times can vary widely.

What impacts transaction speed?

Several factors affect transaction speed, including the total network activity, hashrate and transaction fees. Lower transaction fees will typically result in longer confirmation times.

The network can become congested for two main reasons, slowing everything down. One reason is a spike in transaction volume, and the other is if the hashrate suddenly drops. In that case, processing power for approving transactions reduces until mining difficulty corrects itself, and this adjustment happens every two weeks.

About the mempool

Each node has its own mempool, and a mempool has a limited size, which may vary slightly depending on the node and its settings. Nodes remove transactions from their mempools when they confirm them in a block.

When the Bitcoin network is congested, there will be a backlog of transactions in the mempool. The mempool is a record of all transactions that haven't been validated by a miner yet, thus haven't been added to the next block. 

More transactions in the mempool often results in users sending transactions with higher fees (to get them confirmed more quickly), and other transactions with lower fees remaining in the mempool for a longer amount of time. Block size is limited, and higher transaction fees allow the transaction to jump to the front of the queue, because they incentivize miners to include the transaction in the next block.

When will my Bitcoin transaction be confirmed?

As mentioned above, higher-fee transactions will take priority on others and be verified first. Pending transactions in the mempool with lower transaction fees will only be processed once they meet the minimum transaction fee threshold.

A BTC transaction often goes through several confirmations before it's good to go, because there is a risk of unconfirmed transactions being reversed, or crypto being spent twice (double-spend). If you'd like to have an estimate of the average time it'll take to complete your transaction at a given time, there are websites such as mempool.space that show you plenty of information and currently prioritized fees. If you feel like your transaction might be stuck, head over to this article for more information. Unfortunately, network fees can't be topped up once the transaction has been broadcast to the network using Gamma.

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