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Will the Ethereum (ETH) Berlin Upgrade finally address increasing gas costs?

April 12, 2021

The Berlin upgrade to Ethereum will likely happen on Wednesday, April 14, 2021, when we reach block 12 244 000. Will the long-standing issue of rising ETH gas costs be solved? TL;DR? Not yet.

Berlin introduces some neat stepping stones towards Ethereum 2.0 (known as Serenity) without rocking the boat too much. There are some measures to counter the ever-increasing fees, but the real shakeup will arrive with Serenity, which promises proof-of-stake rather than proof-of-work authentication.

Which Ethereum Improvement Proposals (EIPs) are included in the Berlin upgrade?

Activated on the Ropsten testnet on Mar 10, 2021, at block# 9_812_189, Berlin brings some interesting developments after the Istanbul and Muir Glacier forks. The general theme is to get the foundations in place for significant cost reductions, but we’re not there yet.

EIP-2565: ModExp Gas Cost

The Modular exponentiation (ModEXP) function, which is a fundamental building block for cryptographic functions was seen to be inefficient and expensive and lead to expensive gas costs. EIP-2565 is a proposal to lower the gas costs and to make them comparable to other operations.

This EIP specifies an algorithm for calculating the gas cost which will more accurately reflect the real-world operational costs of the ModExp precompile.

The ModExp Gas Cost protocol improves on EIP-198: Big integer modular exponentiation, which introduced a multitude of cryptographic algorithms that allow RSA signature verification.

EIP-2718: Typed Transaction Envelope

EIP-2718 defines a new transaction type that will act as an envelope to simplify future transactions.

Originally, Ethereum only allowed one transaction type, and there were only two fields available for the user: To, where to direct the transaction, and Data, for any extra information about the transaction (much like a reference entry in a bank transaction). This form of abstraction essentially enforces a form of standardization, allowing more sophisticated transaction types to be built in the future.

Over time, it became clear that new transaction types were needed, but they still had to be compatible with the older (and more simple) ones on the network. The hard fork Spurious Dragon, which included EIP-155 — Simple replay attack protection, bit-packed new transaction values into the older fields, but it quickly became complex and cumbersome for clients to verify and define them all.

EIP-2718 will stop the complexity from increasing in the future and makes it easier to introduce new transaction types.

EIP-2929: Gas cost increases for state access opcodes

This proposal increases the gas cost for opcodes SLOAD, *CALL, BALANCE, EXT*, and SELFDESTRUCT when used for the first time in a transaction.

Gas costs for opcodes are meant to reasonably portray the costs and time required to process said opcode. However, storage-accessing opcodes (SLOAD, *CALL, BALANCE, and EXT*) are undervalued, which has resulted in abuses and attacks on the network, such as the 2016 DoS attacks.

Changes in EIP-2929 will mean a high amount is charged once for each address or storage slot, which intends to limit the threat of DDoS attacks.

EIP-2930: Optional access lists

Transactions could potentially circumvent the increased first-time costs proposed in EIP-2929 by pre-specifying and pre-paying before the increased first-time costs introduced in EIP-2929.

The EIP-2930 upgrade will mitigate that risk.

How to prepare for the ETH Berlin Upgrade

If you don't upgrade, you will stay on the old fork and won't be able to send Ether.

I am an Ethereum user and/or Ether holder, what do I need to do?

Good news! You likely don't need to do anything. Your exchange and/or wallet will do all the work for you. Your exchange or wallet service will contact you if they require any additional steps.

I am an Ethereum node operator and/or miner, what do I need to do?

Ethereum node operators should upgrade their nodes before their networks fork block. As the exact date for block 12 244 000 is unknown, clients should update several days before.

Download the latest versions of your Ethereum client here:

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