They didn't "compete" with anything. They started out as a protected monopoly... Regional Bell Operating Companies ("RBOC") and as one of few Long Distance companies. They sleazed their way into wireless the way only people with billions can... they bought up all the real estate (and more than a few politicians.) How many wireless carriers have been bought up by AT&T to make today's AT&T Wireless?
If we're pointing fingers, we should be shaming every carrier. They all buy up spectrum and then sit on it. The FCC really should police this better, but a) they have no real power, and b) they're bought and sold just like the spectrum.