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 Tar Heel State and the history of North Carolina area codes.

Looking for information on South Carolina Area Codes? CLICK HERE

North Carolina Expands to 10 Different Area Codes

When first assigned in 1947, all North Carolina, the only area code used was 704. In 1954, the eastern and central portions of the state split off as area code 919. That included everything from Winston-Salem eastward. Charlotte and all points west continued to use the 704 area code.

This configuration remained in place for 39 years. This was despite North Carolina’s growth in the second half of the 20th century.

In 1993, the state added the 910 area code. The 910 area code applied to the eastern and southern portions of the numbering plan area. This included Winston-Salem, Greensboro, Fayetteville, and Wilmington.

Continued demand created the need for yet another area code in 1998. At this point, the new 252 area code came into being. The 252 area code covered northeastern North Carolina. This included Rocky Mount, Greenville, and New Bern.

Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill Area Codes (Triangle)

In 2001, the plan was for area code 919 to share its territory with a new code, 984. But a technique called “number pooling” provided enough phone numbers for the time being. As a result, the overlay was put on hold.

Fast forward a decade. The Triangle’s booming population and growing use of cell phones and pagers meant number pooling wasn’t enough anymore. In September 2011, the 984 area code finally went live.

For a few months, residents could choose whether to dial local numbers with seven digits (as usual) or ten digits (including the area code). But by March 2012, ten-digit dialing became mandatory across the Triangle. This change unfortunately led to some people dialing 9-1-1 instead of 919.

Despite continued growth, the 919/984 combo still has plenty of life left. Current projections show the Triangle won’t need another area code for at least the next 30 years.

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

Back in August 2014, phone numbers in North Carolina’s I-85 Corridor were changing. A new area code, 743, was being added to overlay the existing 336 area code. This meant that instead of just dialing seven digits for local calls, you now needed ten digits, including the area code.

Of course, there was no extra charge for those extra digits within the 336 area. And if you already had a 336 number, you got to keep it. The new 743 code was for assigning new phone lines, because the old 336 code was running out of numbers.

This change wasn’t a surprise. Charlotte and the Triangle region had already gotten new area codes in years past. This brought the I-85 Corridor in line with the rest of the state.

The new 743 code officially started working in October 2015. For about six months, you could still use either seven or ten digits when making local calls. But on April 23, 2016, ten-digit dialing became the law for everyone.

Charlotte Metro Area

Back in 1947, there were only 86 phone number “zones” for the whole country, and 704 covered all of North Carolina. But by 1954, the eastern part of the state needed its own zone, 919, leaving 704 for western North Carolina.

For most of the next 50 years, that was fine. Even though Charlotte grew a lot, it wasn’t as crowded as the East, which went from one area code to four! But by the mid-90s, Charlotte was booming and needed more phone numbers. Cell phones, pagers, and even fax machines were making things worse.

So, in 1998, a large part of western North Carolina (the mountains and foothills) got its own area code, 828. That left 704 just for the Charlotte area.

In 1998, the hope was western North Carolina getting its own area code (828) would solve the number shortage for a long time. But guess what? Within two years, the booming city of Charlotte needed even more numbers! And cell phones and pagers were still multiplying like rabbits.

So, in 2000, Charlotte got a brand new “helper” area code, 980. This was North Carolina’s first ever “overlay,” meaning both 704 and 980 could be used for the same area. For a few months, folks could choose either 7 or 10 digits when calling. Finally, on January 10, 2001, everyone had to switch to 10 digits.

Even though Charlotte keeps growing, it’s using these two codes just fine. Experts predict they won’t need another new one until at least 2047!

One interesting thing: even though some of Charlotte spills over into South Carolina, some cell phone users there still have 704 numbers. That’s thanks to something called “mobile number portability.” That lets you keep your number even if you move.

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. At first, it covered a fan-shaped region in the southeastern and north-central portions of the state. The area included 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. The Triad, Wilmington, and Fayetteville, were growing rapidly. Plus, there was a 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 area. Normally, when an area code splits, the more populated part keeps the old area code–in this case, the Triad. However, the decision was made to let the southeastern portion of the state keep 910.

New 472 Overlay Area Code 

The North Carolina Utilities Commission enacted the long-anticipated 472 area code overlay for customers located in the 910 area code. The new overlay area code affects cities like Fayetteville, Jacksonville, Wilmington, and Fort Bragg.

When a location runs out of available telephone numbers for a geographic location, (and this 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 from area code 919. 
  • The second option is to introduce a new overlay area code, which co-exists alongside the old area code. 

This is what happened in southeastern North Carolina. In early October 2023, a new area code — 472 — went 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 four 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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