A Brief History of Area Code Calling in North Carolina

At Carolina Digital Phone, we are very proud of our roots here in Greensboro, NC. And while we have expanded considerably over the last 20 years and now serve customers throughout the Southwest and across the country, we never forget where we came from — or the history that came before us. Today, we will explore some of that legacy by focusing on the history of area codes in the Tar Heel State

north caroline map area codes

North Carolina have expanded to 9 different Area Codes

When area codes were first assigned in 1947, all of North Carolina was assigned area code 704. In 1954, the eastern and central portions of the state–everything from Winston-Salem eastward–split off as area code 919. 704 was reduced to Charlotte and all points west.

Despite North Carolina’s growth in the second half of the 20th century, this configuration remained in place for 39 years. In 1993, the eastern and southern portions of the numbering plan area, including Winston-Salem, Greensboro, Fayetteville, and Wilmington, were split off to form area code 910. In 1998, the northeastern portion, including Rocky Mount, Greenville, and New Bern, was split off to form area code 252.

 

Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill Area Codes (Triangle)

Area code 919 was initially slated for overlay with area code 984 in 2001. However, due to the implementation of number pooling, the overlay was deferred when the supply of numbers was deemed sufficient for the near term. Within a decade, however, the Triangle’s continued growth and the proliferation of cellular telephones and pagers meant that the implementation of 984 could no longer be delayed. In September 2011, the North Carolina Utilities Commission announced that the 984 area code was being pressed into service. Ten-digit dialing for local calls became optional on October 1, 2011, and became mandatory across the Triangle on March 31, 2012, a move which has resulted in thousands of wrong number calls to 9-1-1 instead of 919. New 984 telephone numbers in the affected region began being assigned no later than August 2014.

 

Despite the Triangle’s continued growth, 919/984 is nowhere near exhaustion. The latest projections do not show an exhaust date for 919/984, meaning that the Triangle will not need another area code for at least 30 years.

Winston-Salem, Greensboro, High Point (Piedmont Triad)

Officials from the North Carolina Utilities Commission announced on August 20, 2014, that 336 would be overlaid with a new area code, 743. The new area code made local calls require 10-digit dialing. However, no long-distance charges will be applied within the 336 territories. Those who already have 336 numbers kept them, easing the burden from having to change their phone number. The new area code will be used primarily for issuing new numbers and was needed because 336 was projected to exhaust some time in 2016. The activation of 743 broke seven-digit dialing throughout the I-85 Corridor in North Carolina; Charlotte (704/980) and the Triangle (919/984) have already been overlaid. At the time, 336 was one of the few urbanized area codes without an overlay, making the Triad one of the few large metropolitan areas in the South where seven-digit dialing was still possible.

 

The 743 area code entered service on October 24, 2015; permissive dialing began on that date and continued until April 23, 2016, when ten-digit dialing became mandatory. The first numbers with a 743 area code were issued in May 2016. 

Charlotte Metro Area

The original area code, 704, was one of the original 86 numbering plan areas (NPAs) designated by AT&T in 1947, and originally covered the entire state of North Carolina. In 1954, the eastern two-thirds of the state–everything from Winston-Salem eastward–was split off as area code 919. 704 was reduced to the western third of the state, from Charlotte through the Blue Ridge Mountains to the Tennessee border.

 

This configuration remained in place for the next 44 years. Despite explosive growth in Charlotte, the state’s largest city, the western third of the state was not as densely populated as the eastern two-thirds, which grew from having one area code to four during the 1990s. However, by the mid-1990s, Charlotte’s rapid growth and the ensuing demand for telephone lines made a split inevitable. The number shortage was exacerbated by the proliferation of cell phones, pagers, and fax machines. In 1998, most of the western portion of the old 704 territories, including the Foothills and Blue Ridge, were split off to create area code 828, restricting 704 to the Charlotte area.

 

The creation of 828 was intended as a long-term solution. Within two years, however, 704 was close to exhaustion once again due to Charlotte’s continued growth, as well as the continued proliferation of cell phones and pagers.

 

To solve the problem, it was decided to assign 980 to Charlotte as North Carolina’s first overlay. 980 entered service on May 1, 2000. On that date, a permissive dialing period began in which both 7- and 10-digit calls were both allowed. As of January 10, 2001, 10-digit dialing was mandatory. The first 980 numbers were assigned on February 10, 2001.

 

Even with the Charlotte area’s continued growth, the 704/980 numbering pool is nowhere near exhaustion. Under the most recent NANP projections, the Charlotte area will not need another area code until at least mid-2047.

 

Years after the introduction of mobile number portability, a number of cell phone customers on the South Carolina side of the Charlotte area have 704 numbers.

Western North Carolina

In 1998 Area code 828 was split from the 704 numbering plan area to provide relief from numbering plan exhaustion brought about by the popularity of pagers and cell phones. Among the cities and towns in the 828 numbering plan area are: Asheville, Conover, Hendersonville, Hickory, Lenoir, Maiden, Marion, Morganton, Murphy, and Newton.

North Eastern North Carolina

In March 1998 the North American Numbering Plan created a split of area code 919. The new Area code 252 is a telephone area code in the northeastern corner of the U.S. state of North Carolina. The numbering plan area comprises the municipalities of Kinston, Elizabeth City, Greenville, Henderson, Kitty Hawk, New Bern, Roanoke Rapids, Rocky Mount, Morehead City, Warrenton, and Wilson. 

South Eastern North Carolina

In 1993 the Area Code 910 was created and split from area code 919 and was the state’s first new area code in 39 years. Originally, it covered a fan-shaped region in the southeastern and north-central portions of the state, including the Piedmont Triad, the Sandhills, and the southeastern coast. The two parts were only connected by a tendril in the Sandhills.

 

Within only three years, 910 was already on the brink of exhaustion due to rapid growth in the Triad, Wilmington, and Fayetteville, as well as the proliferation of cell phones and pagers.

 

On December 15, 1997, area code 336 was created for the Triad and most of the old 910 territory’s western portion. Normally, when an area code is split, the more populated portion keeps the old area code–in this case, the Triad. However, it was decided to let the southeastern portion of the state keep 910.

Coming Soon: New 472 Overlay Area Code 

According to the North Carolina Utilities Commission, the 910 area code is expected to run out of numbers in early 2023. 

When this happens (and it is fairly common across the country), there are two options. 

  • One option is that the affected region is split into two codes. This happened in 1993 when area code 910 was split off of area code 919. 
  • The second option is to introduce a new overlay area code, which co-exists alongside the old area code. 

The plan for southeastern North Carolina is the second option. In early October 2022, a new area code — 472 — will go into effect for new phone lines in Cumberland, New Hanover, Onslow and Robeson counties. 

Originally, the new overlay area code was scheduled to be introduced in February, 2023. Business and residential customers in these areas who are assigned a 472 area code will be required to dial the area code and phone number for all local calls.  

Some Things Change…Others Stay the Same!

North Carolina’s area code landscape has changed considerably since 1947. Starting with just one area code for the entire state (704), there are now 9 area codes including 3 (and soon to be 4) overlays. This expansion reflects the tremendous growth that North Carolina has enjoyed over the last several decades, and established it as a destination of choice for both families and businesses. 

 

Indeed, between 2010 and 2020, North Carolina’s population grew by 903,905, which was an increase of 9.5% — significantly faster than the national growth rate of 7.3%. And powered by a robust economy that has hit its stride, and driven by a long track record of innovation, North Carolina was ranked in 2022 as America’s Top State for Business.

 

However, despite this turbocharged growth and progress, some things will NEVER change — and #1 on the list is Carolina Digital Phone’s longstanding commitment to providing the industry’s best all-in-one cloud phone system, backed by the industry’s best local support. We do not just make promises to our customers: WE KEEP THEM!

 

Learn more by scheduling a complimentary, no-risk demo. Call us now at (336) 544-4000, or chat with us by clicking the icon on the bottom of your screen.

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