Image: Yann Bastard

APEX Insight: When it comes to in-flight connectivity, there’s a lot of talk about the downlink, but the conversation is shifting up.

For the past couple of years, the conversation about in-flight connectivity has focused on whether passengers would be able to stream videos during flight. Consuming entertaining content – and a ton of bandwidth along the way – has been key to a satisfying passenger experience. But download demands do not tell the whole story.

More and more passengers are looking to create and share content on board – not just consume it. From live streaming their window view during takeoff to Snapchatting away in flight to show off an upgrade to business class, they’re pushing media off the aircraft more than ever before. For those dedicated to working during their flight, the ability to send not just an e-mail but also an attachment file makes a massive difference in the success of their connectivity experience.

But how much bandwidth accounts for social media consumption on an aircraft? The details vary, of course, but all indications show that growth in consumption isn’t slowing. With a typical Twitter or Facebook photo upload each coming in at around 500 kilobytes, there’s room for a decent number of them to fly off aircraft, but the shift to more video content online may tax current systems. Whether through Instagram Stories, Snapchat or other live-streaming apps, short bursts of video consume significantly more bandwidth than photos. And users love them.

The introduction of Live Stories on Instagram saw a 28 percent increase in average data consumption per device in just one month, according to Wandera, an enterprise security and data management firm. That number reveals a download spike, but also a burst in video content creators – some of which are on board.

Getting passenger data off the airplane makes for happy customers, but uploading aircraft operational information makes for happy airlines, too. Today, the main driver of data upload is weather reports, with aircraft relaying current conditions to help improve forecasts and reduce bumps en route. But airline operations managers want even more details off the aircraft to improve maintenance and turn times. As full fleet connectivity becomes a more common scenario, data upload will dramatically increase in volume and value.

“Up, Up, File Away!” was originally published in the 7.5 December/January issue of APEX Experience magazine.