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Area codes 201 and 551 are the North American telephone area code for the state of New Jersey covering most of Hudson and Bergen counties. Major cities in the area code include Jersey City, Hoboken, Hackensack, Secaucus, Englewood and Englewood Cliffs.
The 201 area code was one of the original area codes assigned in 1947, and was also the first area code to be assigned in the United States, as part of the North American Numbering Plan. It originally covered the entire state. On paper, this was very unusual, since New Jersey is one of the most densely populated states in the nation; it is split almost down the middle between two very large metropolitan areas—the suburbs of New York City to the north and the suburbs of Philadelphia to the south. The North American Numbering Plan Administration took this into account when it assigned 201 to New Jersey. It wanted to keep the number of "clicks" to a minimum for densely populated areas, given the rotary dialing technology in use at the time. New Jersey was thus assigned an area code with 13 clicks, the fastest that could be dialed for a single-area-code state under NANPA's original guidelines (0 and 1 were not allowed as the first digit, the second digit was a 0 for single-area-code states or 1 for multi-area-code states, and the third digit could not be the same as the second digit).
In 1958, 201 was restricted to northern New Jersey, with southern New Jersey—including the state capital, Trenton, the southern Jersey Shore and the New Jersey side of the Delaware Valley—becoming area code 609.
After the split in 1958, area code 201 served the northern counties in the state: Bergen, Hudson, Essex, Union, Morris, Passaic, Hunterdon, Somerset, Middlesex, Monmouth, Sussex and Warren counties--a region largely coextensive with the New Jersey side of the New York City area.
As the central region of New Jersey grew during the 1980s, the northeastern section of the state lost sizable chunks of its population due to the decline of its major cities, including Newark, Paterson, Clifton, and Elizabeth. On June 8, 1991, area code 908 split off from 201; it primarily serves the north-central regions of the state.
During the mid-1990s, businesses began to flourish once again in North Jersey, while cell phones and internet dial-up connections proliferated. In response to the pressure for the addition of more telephone numbers, New Jersey added more area codes, going from three to six. As of June 1, 1997, Essex and Passaic counties, home to Newark and Paterson respectively (the state's largest and third-largest cities), as well as Morris and Sussex counties, were broken away from area code 201 as area code 973. Conventional wisdom suggested that Newark should have kept 201; the reason this wasn't the case is still not known. This left Hudson and Bergen counties, the two most densely populated counties in the state and the closest to New York City, as the only counties in the 201 territory.
As Hudson and Bergen Counties developed further, and even more telephone numbers were demanded, it was debated whether 201 should split again, or if an overlay area code should be added instead. Verizon, the dominant telephone company in New Jersey, opted for an overlay to avoid the costs and frustration associated with splitting an area code (such as customers being forced to change their numbers).
Area code 551 was created in 2001 to overlay 201, along with area codes 862 and 848, which overlay area codes 973 and 732, respectively. With the implementation of the overlay area code on December 1, 2001, 10-digit dialing became mandatory.
|New Jersey area codes: 201, 551, 609, 732, 848, 856, 862, 908, 973|
|West: 862/973||201/551||East: 212/646, 347/718, 914, 917|
|South: 347/718, 917|
|New York area codes: 212, 315, 347, 516, 518, 585, 607, 631, 646, 716, 718, 845, 914, 917, 929|