"In this context, flexible organizational structure and culture to support it is most important. We buy technology from outside, which make us very different from our competitors."
Murphy also said innovation comes from a mindset and a culture that endorses it and rewards it.
"If you need 12 levels of management approval to implement a simple innovative idea, people generally give up. It needs to be fundamentally built in to the how the company runs."
He said that with voice and SMS remaining strong revenue generators, with data playing a larger role day by day but with few major disruptions, this has lulled most operators into a sense of complacency.
Yet another constraint, Accenture's Sachet said, is that traditionally telcos have been aligned by products.
"Each product line has found relatively interesting ways to maximize its own portion of wallet share without taking into consideration customer overall value proposition or changing needs."
He said this is slowly shifting as customers become the focus.
Beyond culture and structure, Celcom Axiata CEO Dato' Sri Shazalli Ramly said that financial resources as well as having the right people with knowledge and technical expertise all are potential obstacles to innovation.
City Telecom (HK) CFO Niq Lai said innovation is about having the vision to see things that others don't see and having the resources and authority to execute on that vision.
He noted that it took 10 years and $400 million for City Telecom become the largest end-to-end fiber network in Hong Kong and now is the fastest growing. "It took us seven years to reach positive free cash flow, and even today we have not yet achieved payback."
All companies encourage improvements, Lai said, "but we regularly change whatever can be changed... even though we may not foresee any gain at the moment. We encourage change for the stake of change. We believe it is only through consistent change that we can discover unexpected improvements."