Carrier Ethernet is a leased-line point-to-point link between two sites, where the subscriber interface at each end of the line looks like Ethernet (in some flavor). The physical path in between sites, however, need not have anything to do with Ethernet; it may be implemented however the carrier wishes. In particular, it will be (or at least appear to be) full-duplex, it will be collision-free, and its length may far exceed the maximum permitted by any IEEE Ethernet standard.
Bandwidth can be purchased in whatever increments the carrier has implemented. The point of carrier Ethernet is to provide a layer of abstraction between the customers, who need only install a commodity Ethernet interface, and the provider, who can upgrade the link implementation at will without requiring change at the customer end.
In a sense, carrier Ethernet is similar to the widespread practice of provisioning residential DSL and cable routers with an Ethernet interface for customer interconnection; again, the actual link technologies may not look anything like Ethernet, but the interface will.
A carrier Ethernet connection looks like a virtual VPN link, but runs on top of the provider’s internal network rather than the Internet at large. Carrier Ethernet connections often provide the primary Internet connectivity for one endpoint, unlike Internet VPNs which assume both endpoints already have full Internet connectivity.