This is so essential, I wonder why I didn't mention this earlier.
Now, I am sure most Ubuntu users when they first install Ubuntu on their computer, will usually (as part of the installation process) tell the Ubuntu installer where they are located and the timezone they are at. The installer then tries to point your Ubuntu installation to the nearest repository so that you can download all the latest patches and updates via this point instead of the main Ubuntu servers.
I am located in Malaysia, so the installer places me on the Malaysian server which is located at my.archive.ubuntu.com. Now, the problem with the internet is, routing is never an exact science and the Malaysian server at my.archive.ubuntu.com is actually located in the United Kingdom and it shows when I run an update and usually get around 20kb/s download transfers.
I have two choices to try and speed up my updates. The first thing you need to do is to run a program called "Software Sources" found at:
System -> Administration -> Software Sources
In this program, under the "Download from:" option, you can select the "Other..." option and a list of servers that mirrors the main Ubuntu server are listed. You can simply select a server in your country or if your country is not listed, a near or neighboring country from the list as your source of Ubuntu updates. This is your first option, which usually works quite well and you will notice a faster then before download rate.
The second and preferred option is to click the "Select Best Server" button which will ping all the servers on the list and automatically select for you the server with the faster response time. This option usually points you to the server that will give you the fastest download rates.
I am now pointed to a server in Taiwan which gives me a very high download rate (about 150kb/s) and quite strangely, without the "Select Best Server" button, I would have chosen a server in Singapore or Thailand due to the close proximity of the two countries to Malaysia.
Do give this a try and let me know if this article was useful.