Telecom operators in Ireland have defended their use of equipment made by the Chinese manufacturer Huawei, as a number of countries move to ban the company's network infrastructure and services.

The firm has come in for close scrutiny around the world in recent times amid concern that the Chinese government could use Huawei equipment to spy on and gather intelligence about its rivals.

Huawei has denied that this is possible and has said it is a private independent firm.

The US, New Zealand, Australia and Japan are among the countries that have ruled out use of the Chinese company's products and services in their core network infrastructure.

A number of telecom firms in Ireland either use Huawei equipment in their existing networks or plan to use it in their fifth generation mobile networks, which will be rolled out from next year.

Eir confirmed it will use Huawei's 5G systems in its experimental next generation pilot system.

But it is understood it will only be using the company's radio access technology and that Huawei equipment will not be utilised in the core network where security needs to be even tighter.

Vodafone said that like many other operators around the world it utilises Huawei equipment.

It added that the security of its customers is its top priority and so all of its suppliers are subject to the highest of security assurance, including equipment testing.

"In addition, we work closely with governments and industry partners to assess telecoms sector security and performance, and always comply with the latest regulations," the operator said in a statement.

Last week, it was reported that BT in the UK is planning to strip Huawei equipment out of its core 4G network within two years in order to bring its mobile phone business in line with an internal policy to keep the Chinese company's equipment at the periphery of telecoms infrastructure.

BT Ireland said the company had long-standing network architecture principles that ensure the overarching governance and compliance of all BT's network platforms.

It said last week's story in the UK only applied to the network it inherited when it bought EE in 2016.

The company added that because EE does not have a mobile network here, BT Ireland does not have to carry out similar work in Ireland.

It added that Huawei remains an important equipment provider to the company, but as per its principles there is no Huawei equipment in the sensitive "control plane" of its network.

SIRO, the ESB and Vodafone joint venture, said it does not comment on supplier arrangements.

However, last year SIRO announced a €25 million deal with Huawei that would see the Chinese company supply it with end-to-end network equipment for its fibre optic rollout to 50 regional towns.

Asked whether the Government is considering following other countries on the issue, a spokesperson for the Department of Communications said Comreg, as a statutory independent telecoms regulator, is responsible for compliance in this area.

However, a Comreg spokesman took a different view saying the agency was not responsible as Huawei does not fall under its authorisation procedures as it does not operate a telecom network or service in Ireland.

Concern that China could be using Huawei equipment to spy is not new, but it has come to the fore recently as telecom operators begin planning the rollout of next generation mobile network technology, an area that Huawei is a leader in.

The arrest of the company's chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, in Canada for alleged sanctions breaking dealings with Iran has also led to a renewed focus.